Oct 15, 2021 - News

Dallas to hire law firm to investigate loss of police files

An illustration of an inmate cuffed behind his back, dissolving into pixels.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Dallas City Council is planning an independent investigation into the loss of more than 8 million data files that largely contained information related to the Dallas Police Department's family violence unit.

Why it matters: This is the next step in determining the full scope of how the data loss occurred and how it could affect criminal investigations and cases filed with the Dallas County district attorney's office.

  • 17,494 cases could be affected by this data loss. The DA's office has prioritized investigating cases scheduled for trial.

Driving the news: A Dallas City Council committee interviewed three firms and selected Kirkland & Ellis, which employs Erin Nealy Cox, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

  • The full council will make the final determination on Oct. 27.

Cox told the committee that an investigation into the data loss would take 60 days and the firm would need another 30 days to complete its final report.

Context: The Dallas County DA's office sent a memo in August to the local defense bar after discovering investigative files had been lost at the Police Department.

  • The data loss occurred in late March, but the mayor and council only learned of the incident from the DA's memo.

Then in September, a 131-page report issued by city staff said a second data loss was discovered during an audit in August. Both losses occurred while an IT staff member was backing up the data.

  • "The City of Dallas' backup process has no explicit data management procedures for the archival of data," the report says.

The bottom line: If the council approves the contract, having the former U.S. attorney working on the investigation will bring a prosecutor's eye to the data loss and its impact on the community.


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