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Friday, July 1, 2022

Dallas city officials say they miscalculated severity of lost police evidence

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Dallas’ top administrative city officials say they underestimated the seriousness of lost police evidence files being deleted in the spring and that all of the nearly eight terabytes of still missing files likely can’t be restored.

It appears that the deleted information was archived material that had not been opened in six to 18 months.

Chief Information Officer Bill Zielenski said during the first public meeting on Thursday centered on the data loss that they have been working with the police department since mid-April to determine other sources where they can get copies of the files. The lost data includes police photos, video, audio, case notes.

Zielenski said police body camera footage and information from the department’s crimes against persons unit, which handles investigations into homicides, sex assaults and family violence, weren’t part of the archive.

The employee, whom Zielenski didn’t identify but indicated is a man, “failed to follow established procedure,” and initially deleted 22 terabytes of data starting March 31. The employee canceled the deletion three days later after some colleagues alerted him to the disappearing files.

“There was no intent to delete anything,” Zielenski told council members.

He said his staff has a digital record of the archived information deleted by an employee from a city network drive.

Zielenski said he shouldn’t have been allowed to delete that much information at once. The investigations involving the employee have since closed and his disciplinary action is pending.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax, Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune, Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich and Police Chief Eddie Garcia told council members they regretted waiting months to notify elected officials and the Dallas County District Attorney about the lost police evidence.

They chalked it up to not knowing the full magnitude of police files lost until August and not asking more questions about what data was missing.

Zielenski said his department recovered about 14 terabytes of the deleted files within the first week of inadvertently eliminating them. He said they knew 7.5 terabytes of files have been missing since April.

Broadnax said he didn’t find out until April 13, never sought any follow up, and didn’t hear about it again until after the DA’s office asked about missing case files on Aug. 6. He said before then all he knew was that “archive data” was lost and that it “didn’t quite rise to the level of alarm” that he felt more notifications were needed.

“I would have handled it much differently at the time if we had known the extent,” he said.

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