A memo from the City of Dallas was made public detailing how information from online police reports was slowly being redacted. Sent on Friday, the memo reached the public safety committee and informed city officials of the changes.
As of now, names involved in certain cases, such as homicides, have already been removed from the City of Dallas Open Data portal. Along with eliminating certain names, the memo added further advice for changing public lists, showing the names of officers and their whereabouts during crimes.
The Dallas Morning News began appealing to lawyers to question whether or not the city’s decision was legal. They worry that the lack of information will make it challenging to inform the public on important events. Police Chief Eddie Garcia says he supports the city’s move and that “we’re not the only city that does this.”
Both the city and police departments state that the redaction of the information is in the public’s best interest. They believe the changes will “increase the safety of victims and prevent potential retaliation or revictimization.”
Out of 200 reported counts of homicide and related crimes, only 87 appear on the Open Data portal, which had been undergoing an overhaul since October.
Dr. Brita Andercheck is in charge of the redaction effort for the City of Dallas. Previously, complainant names and addresses could be located through the Open Data Portal. Now, Andercheck stressed the importance of creating a “transparent” data portal that didn’t require releasing any personal information.
The City of Dallas is legally required to provide very “basic” information about crimes, such as name or age. This was maintained in a 1975 ruling, Houston Chronicle Publishing Co. vs. the City of Houston.
The Vice President of the Texas Press Association, Donnis Baggett, fears the new redaction recommendations could be dangerously vague. “It looks to me like it’s loose enough that they could hide just about anything they wanted to.” He stated about the memo.