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Dallas Terminates Worker Who Deleted 22.5 TB of Police Data

The Dallas Police Department employee responsible for deleting 22.5 terabytes of police data was fired by city officials Friday. The worker had been employed for nine years and showed a history of errors.

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(TNS) — The city of Dallas fired an information technology employee in connection with the erroneous deletion of Dallas police evidence, according to emails obtained Monday by The Dallas Morning News.

The employee had been with the department for nine years before he was fired Friday. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday from The News. When reached last week before he was fired, he declined to comment and has not been named outside of internal documents.

The city was auditing its files after it became public earlier this month that 7.5 terabytes of evidence were deleted in April. The employee’s firing comes as city officials discovered an additional 15 terabytes of missing Dallas police evidence and files from the city secretary’s office.

The discovery brings the total loss of files, as of Monday, to about 22.5 terabytes. The audit was initiated after Dallas County prosecutors learned earlier this month that an IT employee improperly moved police evidence from a storage cloud to a local server.

Elizabeth Reich, the city’s chief financial officer, confirmed in an email sent to city council members last week that the employee had been fired on Friday.

The audit also showed the IT employee has a “pattern of error,” Reich wrote in an email.

“Additional information collected during the course of the internal audit demonstrates a pattern of error on the part of the employee which substantiates and justifies the termination action,” she said.

An audit team reviewing the city’s “entire data archive and back-up process” identified the 15 additional terabytes, according to another email sent by Reich. Dallas police said Monday the additional 15 terabytes seem to have been deleted at a separate time as the other 7.5 terabytes. But it was unclear when exactly the recently discovered evidence loss happened or what kind of criminal cases are affected.

Dallas police investigated the former IT employee, who has not been named outside internal documents, for a possible charge of tampering with government records in connection with the evidence loss and decided his action was not criminal, according to records obtained by The News.

The department’s public integrity unit began its investigation April 26 and closed it June 9 without telling the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office about the missing evidence. The city did not inform District Attorney John Creuzot about the evidence loss until earlier this month.

“It is alleged the employee failed to follow procedures and deleted data from DPD archives,” records from the public integrity unit said.

The records do not provide detailed notes or a narrative about what investigators uncovered. The News has requested the city provide documents that have more information about the inquiry.

The district attorney’s office has its own public integrity unit that could investigate the former employee. During an interview Aug. 20 with The News’ editorial board, District Attorney John Creuzot did not rule out such an inquiry. But he stressed that his first priority is reviewing criminal cases that have upcoming trial dates that could be affected by the data loss.

“Might there be a place and time in the reasonably near future to inquire and look into [an investigation]? Of course,” Creuzot said. “The first problem I have in front of me is the integrity of the cases of people who are indicted. That’s No. 1, and I’m clear about that.”

But Creuzot issued a written statement last week saying: “The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office public integrity unit takes cases referred to it by law enforcement agencies. No criminal case alleging probable cause in regard to the city’s data loss has been submitted to this office at this time. We will not initiate that process, according to office policy and the law.”

When asked for the policy, a spokeswoman said there is not a “specific written policy.” She provided an opinion from federal judges on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans who wrote that the role of prosecutors is to be an advocate preparing for trial and not to function as a detective.

The judges’ opinion was published in July 2020 after former state District Judge Suzanne Wooten of Collin County sued four prosecutors who sought bribery convictions against her in 2011. The convictions were overturned. The judges allowed Wooten to sue the lead prosecutor because they say he was acting as a law enforcement officer.

On Monday, Creuzot said that prosecutors are entitled to prosecutorial immunity from lawsuits, but not investigative immunity. His public integrity unit rarely conducts their own investigations prior to presenting a case to a grand jury, the point, he said, when they get prosecutorial immunity.

“As a matter of policy, we shy away from that,” he said.

Creuzot said in situations they think should be looked into, the public integrity unit can ask a law enforcement agency to investigate, like the Texas Rangers or DPD.

A memo sent by Crezuot to defense lawyers this month notified them of the IT blunder and set in motion public awareness. Dallas Police Chief Eddie García and City Manager T.C. Broadnax have said they didn’t alert Creuzot or city leaders because they didn’t realize the magnitude of the loss and believed the IT department could still recover files.

Broadnax and Chief Information Officer Bill Zielenski have said about the first batch of missing data that the former employee was supposed to move 35 terabytes of archived police files from online storage to a physical city drive starting March 31. It was supposed to take around five days to move the information. But the employee “failed to follow established procedure” and wound up deleting 22 terabytes from the city’s network drive. More than 14 terabytes were recovered.

It’s unclear whether any of the newly identified 15 terabytes are recoverable, and how much of those involve police evidence versus files from the city secretary’s office.

Fifteen terabytes is the equivalent of about 5,000 hours of HD video or about 4 million photos or 100 million pages of Microsoft Word documents. And 22.5 terabytes is the equivalent of about 7,500 hours of HD video or about 6 million photos or 150 million pages of Microsoft Word documents.

©2021 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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