Dallas police officers may have violated state evidence laws by improperly storing tens of thousands of digital records.
More than 89,000 digital records may have been improperly stored, as first covered by The Dallas Morning News, which reported this information came from internal police communications the publication had obtained.
The police may have violated the Richard Miles Act, a state law passed in 2021, by failing to provide required digital evidence to attorneys as a result of the files being improperly categorized on the police department’s server, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Files that are not assigned a category altogether are difficult for police to find, but they do remain on the server. When files are not properly categorized, it is also possible for them to be deleted automatically.
Police reportedly said the uncategorized records mostly include videos such as police body camera footage, vehicle camera videos, and recordings from interviews.
However, Kristin Lowman, a public information officer for the Dallas Police Department, told The Dallas Express that many of the uncategorized files are merely test videos “checking equipment at the start of a shift, or a simple call for service where no action was taken.”
“Not all of the records are digital evidence,” she continued. “The files could be any number of calls we respond to that no arrest was made or no report was done.”
Lowman provided hypothetical examples of alarm calls with no generated offense and accidental recordings started by officers, echoing statements made by Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
“Some of those digital records that are untagged could have just been either a test video or a simple call for service where no action was taken,” said Garcia, per The Dallas Morning News. “So not all of those records are digital evidence. It could have been the myriad of calls that we respond to that no arrest was made and no report was done.”
Police first learned of the uncategorized files following an internal audit in November, according to Garcia. When the audit was conducted, the department said more than 89,300 uncategorized files were found. On February 5, there were more than 64,600, and there were about 52,000 remaining at the time that The Dallas Morning News reported on the story on February 20.
Lowman clarified to The Dallas Express that, at the time of the audit, 98% of the department’s files were categorized. Now, 99% of the 3.8 million files are categorized.
Since then, “the number of uncategorized files has been diminished,” she said. “There are currently 13,000.”
“We continue to work to categorize all files on the system – both the ones that are uploaded daily – and the ones discovered by the audit – and ensure compliance by our department members,” explained Lowman.
On Thursday, February 23, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said he was not made aware of the improperly stored files until it was reported publicly by The Dallas Morning News.
“Of course, we would have and perhaps should have been made aware of this issue when it was initially discovered in November 2022,” said Creuzot, as reported by KERA News. “But since learning of the issue, I have come to understand these materials are believed to be more of an administrative nature rather than investigative.”
He continued, “However, due to the volume of uncategorized files, it is also possible that some contain investigative materials.”
Creuzot said he is in “constant dialogue” with Garcia over this matter, according to CBS News. Lowman confirmed this assertion to The Dallas Express.