The people of Dallas deserve answers
A massive amount of evidence was deleted, potentially jeopardizing cases, but the city manager and his team kept it quiet.
The following was adapted from my email newsletter. To sign up, visit mayorofdallas.org.
As you have heard me say repeatedly, public safety must be the city’s top priority.
But on Wednesday, the district attorney revealed that the city had informed him that about 8 terabytes of Dallas Police Department evidence (imagine more than five dozen 128 GB iPhones that are completely full) were somehow deleted and have been deemed to be almost certainly unrecoverable. That includes images, video, audio, case notes, and other documents gathered by police officers during criminal investigations.
This is a very serious matter. It’s unclear how many cases might be affected, but missing evidence could have major consequences for pending criminal cases, which could leave victims without justice and undermine efforts to build a safer city.
As The Dallas Morning News reported, several top city officials have known about the data loss for months. However, they chose to keep it quiet, deciding to notify one — and only one — city councilmember. They stunningly didn’t tell prosecutors or the DA until his office inquired last week after noticing that digital files had gone missing. The handful of top city officials who knew didn’t say a word to me or to any current member of the city council who could press for answers or hold them accountable. In fact, I was blindsided by the news immediately after leaving a meeting Wednesday with the city manager about an unrelated issue.
Much is still unknown at the moment. But what is abundantly clear right now is that the people of Dallas deserve answers. And the city council has a responsibility to you to provide oversight and demand accountability, especially on a matter that is this important.
That’s why I asked Adam McGough and Cara Mendelsohn — the chairs of the Public Safety and Government Performance & Financial Management committees, respectively — to call a joint special meeting of their two committees. At that meeting, they should discuss the data deletion, the troubling lack of communication from city staff about what transpired, and the steps being taken to resolve the matter and prevent future occurrences.
You deserve to know whether your city government, which your tax dollars pay for, is working (or not). And the city council cannot be left in the dark by staff about this issue and the potential consequences.
Stay tuned for more as the situation develops. You can contact your city councilmember here to let them know that you want answers and public accountability, too.