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Data loss prompts recommendations to increase oversight, training and funding for Dallas IT staff

Dallas City Hall.
Tony Gutierrez
/
Associated Press
Dallas City Council members on Tuesday will discuss a report that looked into a massive data loss in March 2021.

Investigators who examined the City of Dallas’ massive data loss concluded that its IT staff must receive proper training and recommended that the police department hire a chief information officer to prevent it from happening again.

Millions of important police department records and more than 17,000 Dallas County District Attorney’s Office cases were destroyed in March 2021. The city later hired the law firm Kirkland & Ellis to investigate that loss and produce a report, which was made public on Thursday.

Dallas City Council members will discuss the report's findings and recommendations at the Ad Hoc Committee on General Investigating and Ethics next Tuesday.

A Dallas IT worker was fired for failing to make sure that copies of the data were moved successfully before the original material was destroyed. The investigators recommended designing a way to test and verify the data migration process is working before beginning the final transfer.

The investigators also recommended using outside experts to make sure that data transfers are handled correctly and providing more funding to the IT department and increasing its staff.

“A lack of adequate IT resources at DPD constituted a contributing factor in the Data Loss Incident,” the report said.

The files’ loss included photos, videos, audio, notes and other evidence collected for police department cases. The city lost more than 23 terabytes of data but was able to recover roughly 3 terabytes. For context, a single terabyte can hold about 500 hours of high definition video, according to NPR.

The report said the IT employee’s actions appeared “to have been based on his flawed understanding of the City’s backup and archiving platform.”

The investigators interviewed Dallas IT and DPD staff. Based on those interviews they concluded that the current operating model is “reactive in nature and largely siloed from customer departments.” And they suggested the city conduct more planning in advance of data migration procedures.

The report suggested that the city come up with a 3- to 5-year plan for data migration and conduct a citywide data assessment. That would help identify the types of data each city department is storing, whether it is being backed up and the impact if the data is lost.

No one else has been fired for the data loss. Dallas’ IT department released a report last year stating that the data loss was the result of poor management, supervision and an attempt to save money.

Dallas City Attorney Chris Caso declined to comment on the report. And the law firm did not respond.

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Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.