A bungled data migration of a network drive caused the deletion of 22 terabytes of information from a US police force’s systems – including case files in a murder trial, according to local reports.
Dallas Police Department confessed to the information blunder last week, revealing in a statement that a data migration exercise carried out at the end of the 2020-21 financial year deleted vast amounts of data from a network drive.
“On August 6, 2021, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and City of Dallas Information and Technology Services Department (ITS) informed the administration of this Office that in April 2021, the City discovered that multiple terabytes of DPD data had been deleted during a data migration of a DPD network drive,” said a statement [PDF] from the Dallas County prosecutor’s office.
The migration, which took place between 31 March and 5 April, actually destroyed 22TB of data. 14TB were recovered, presumably from backups, but “approximately 8 Terabytes remain missing and are believed to be unrecoverable.” Affected criminal case files include those created before 28 July 2020, though prosecutors said the precise number “is currently unknown.”
CBS Dallas Fort Worth, a local TV station, reported that murder suspect Jonathan Pitts was due to stand trial on Thursday but has instead been released on bail because his files were deleted in the blunder. The detail was apparently revealed by the prosecutor in a motion filed last week, just a day before the trial had been due to begin. Case files typically contain documents, images, videos, logs of evidence, and more. Evidence (going either way) in Pitts’ case may yet be recovered, so the trial is not necessarily off for good. Pitts had pleaded not guilty in the case.
District Attorney John Creuzot claimed that while police were immediately aware of what happened, it took them four months to come clean with his prosecutor’s office. Meanwhile the local mayor, Eric Johnson, said he was “blindsided” by the data loss.
Such blunders aren’t unique to Dallas. Earlier this year Britain’s Home Office managed to lose 400,000 criminal evidence records from a Fujitsu-provided mainframe backup appliance. Meanwhile, in France, cloud operator OVH suffered an equally catastrophic data loss after a fire in March gutted one of its data centres in Strasbourg. ®