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'Anytime Data Is Lost, I Consider It A Disaster' Says Expert Who Reviewed Dallas Data Loss Report

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A 131-page report released by the City of Dallas on Thursday, Sept. 30 shows thousands of criminal cases may have been impacted by the major data loss earlier this year.

The city lost about 21 terabytes of data and more than eight million files.

They include Dallas Police Department archived images, video, audio and case notes.

Nearly 17,500 cases could be impacted, including 1,000 prioritized by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson expressed concern about the city's report.

In a statement he said, "The findings in this report are troubling and distressing. The report details "inadequate" and "insufficient" systems and controls, reveals significant management deficiencies, and demonstrates, again, the failure to take these matters seriously enough. All of it raises further questions. We need action and accountability. I want the Dallas City Council's Ad Hoc Committee on General Investigating and Ethics to receive a full briefing on the report this month."

Andrew Wildrix, Chief Information Officer at the Plano firm Intrusion, reviewed the report by the City of Dallas about its major data loss.

"Anytime data is lost, I consider it a disaster, especially on that level of magnitude," he said.

Wildrix said the city's report shows the data loss was preventable.

"For a business of my company size, that would probably put us out of business tomorrow if we lost that much data and could not recover it."

Brad Lollar, an assistant Dallas County Public Defender, reviewed the city's report as well and was surprised by the number of cases potentially affected. "Wow, that's a big number."

He said he's representing 11 defendants charged with capital murder, and that the cases are up in the air right now because he doesn't know if any evidence is lost.

Lollar said he and other defense attorneys are waiting to receive a list of the cases that are impacted.

"The public wants the right thing to happen down here at this courthouse. And the right thing cannot happen. If the police department is losing evidence."

The data loss came to light in early August after Dallas County DA John Creuzot found out about it.

The city's data loss happened March 30 and 31, and the report says city officials discovered it in early April.

But they didn't tell DA Creuzot, Mayor Johnson, and most city council members for another four months.

The city has said the data was lost when an IT employee was transferring it from the cloud to an on-site data archive.

The report says the city was trying to save money because its data costs using the cloud were "unsustainable," but that "At no point, did technical and managerial resources assess cost and technical risks against best practices."

The report also says, "City personnel failed to faithfully follow the data migration procedures..provided by the software vendor and found there is "a lack of understanding among the IT staff and leadership as to the importance of data management controls, policies, standards, and procedures."

Wildrix said, " It seems to me like the entire organization was on autopilot."

The city said it's taking multiple steps to improve the department and Wildrix praised the city for doing so.

The IT employee in question was fired and the city has said he had made similar mistakes twice before.

The Dallas Police Department previously announced the FBI was looking to see if the employee lost the day intentionally, and is also providing technical assistance.

Later this month, the City Council will decide whether to hire an outside firm to conduct an investigation.

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