A massive amount of information on criminal cases dating to July 2020 has been lost from the Dallas Police Department computer database. In a statement, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office said the loss occurred in early April as the Dallas Police Department performed a data migration from a computer network drive.
About 14 terabytes of the 22 terabytes lost were recovered, but the remaining eight terabytes are believed lost forever, according to the statement, and would have to be restored by new investigative work.
City information technology officials became aware of the problem on April 5. The police and city IT departments did not reveal it to the district attorney’s office until Friday, August 6, after prosecutors inquired why they could not find computer files on pending cases.
The lost data included images, video, audio, case notes and other information gathered by police officers and detectives, according to a Dallas Police Department statement. A city IT employee was migrating the files, which had not been accessed for the previous six to 18 months, from an online, cloud-based archive to a server at the city’s data center.
In its statement, the police department clumsily claimed it wanted “to fully evaluate whether the data was recoverable or not to know the full extent of the problem, if any,” before going public.
Branan also said she was concerned that evidence that might strengthen defendant defenses might have been lost, so the police department needed to identify which cases the data loss affects so investigators can retrace their steps and restore the lost evidence.
The following memorandum was issued by John Creuzot, Criminal District Attorney, to city employees.
In an effort for full transparency, and pursuant to our obligation under federal and state law to disclose potential exculpatory, impeachment, and mitigating evidence, the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office makes the following disclosure:
On August 6, 2021, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and City of Dallas Information and Technology Services Department (ITS) informed the administration of this Office that in April 2021, the City discovered that multiple Terabytes of DPD data had been deleted during a data migration of a DPD network drive. This Office asked for more precise information. In the late afternoon of August 9, 2021, DPD responded with additional information. We learned that 22 Terabytes of DPD data were deleted over the course of a few days (March 31,2021 – April 5, 2021). Approximately 14 Terabytes of data were recovered, but approximately 8 Terabytes remain missing and are believed to be unrecoverable.
The City of Dallas became aware of this issue on April 5, 2021, when DPD users noticed certain files were missing. The administration of this Office was informed of this issue by DPD and ITS on August 6, 2021,after inquiring why pending cases were missing files.
We have asked DPD for a date range of affected cases, to narrow down the scope of potentially impacted cases. As we understand it today, this data loss applies to cases with offense dates before July 28, 2020.Additionally, this issue does not affect “direct file” cases (i.e., cases without a detective, such as DWI, Evading Arrest, and Unlawful Possession of Firearm by a Felon). The City of Dallas is working on a plan to specifically identify affected cases.
Effective today, all prosecutors have been instructed to verify with the filing detective that all evidence/files were shared with our office via TechShare before disposing of the case. This requires the detective to compare the police department’s records to those maintained in TechShare, in order to confirm that all evidence gathered in the case is uploaded into TechShare or to determine if there are any missing files that DPD had not previously shared in TechShare. Should there be any missing files in a case, the prosecutor will make a written disclosure based upon the information communicated by DPD.
Because the number and identification of specific cases affected by this network drive deletion is currently unknown, this general notice is provided to communicate this issue as soon as practicable and has been posted to our website. Please feel free to distribute this information. If you believe your case was impacted by this issue, please prepare a written request and submit it to the trial prosecutor.
Dallas County Criminal District Attorney