Feb 28, 2022 - News

Report finds poor training led to Dallas Police's massive data loss

Illustration of an inmate cuffed behind his back, dissolving into pixels.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new report from the law firm hired by City Council to investigate the loss of data containing Dallas police files, says the incident is a result of “inadequate training” of an IT employee, poor interdepartmental communication and a lack of a failsafe.

Why it matters: The loss of more than 8 million data files — nearly 24 terabytes —containing Dallas Police Department evidence and investigations was due to the unchecked actions of one person, which points to a larger flaw in the system, the report says.

  • The data migration and subsequent loss of files was “symptomatic of a larger lack of strategy and planning around how the city intended to use the cloud to meet its information technology needs.”

Context: The Dallas Police Department “collects or generates” about 800 terabytes of data each year — from 911 call recordings to video evidence.

  • A single terabyte can contain hundreds of thousands of images and as much as 500 hours of video.

What happened: The city started migrating files in January 2021 from cloud storage to servers at City Hall to save money. In March, an IT employee deleted the files from the cloud storage without realizing that millions of files had not been completely transferred.

  • The technician, who was later fired, continued to delete files from May 7 to Aug. 5.
  • “These deletions indicate that the backup technician failed to appreciate the magnitude of the incident,” the report says.

Details: Nobody in the IT department “took any steps to validate” the transferred files were accessible other than waiting for “users to self-report issues,” per the report.

  • The employee who deleted the data received only “entry-level” training on the data management system.

Flashback: The mass deletion was not widely known until the Dallas County district attorney sent a memo to the defense bar in August after discovering files were missing from a police department data server.

  • IT employees had known the data was permanently lost in early April.

Yes, but: Most of the lost files have been found stored in other locations, including with the district attorney’s office.

  • The technician did not have “malicious intent or criminal purpose” for the deletion, Kirkland said of its investigation.

What we're watching: Kirkland & Ellis is scheduled to brief a council committee on the findings Tuesday.

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