The Dallas Police Department (DPD) is set to receive a tech overhaul, funded by a $935,000 federal grant to help update its existing records management system.
The taxpayer-funded grant came about as a result of bipartisan efforts by recently retired Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, and Rep. Beth Van Duyne, a Republican.
The DPD currently relies on numerous platforms for recording reports and evidence. As a result, today’s record-keeping process is susceptible to data loss and even security breaches.
While the new system may not solve all the issues, it is hoped the upgrade will go a long way to alleviate some of the data loss problems the department has faced in recent years.
The funding will be utilized to transition the department’s record management to a web-based system.
Presently, officers must connect to the department’s network to log an arrest or file an incident report. While some officers can file their digital records remotely from their squad car or laptop, others must wait until they return to their headquarters or the county jail to complete a filing.
Under the new, web-based system, officers will have the ability to perform more of these tasks from other devices, like mobile phones, according to Executive Assistant Chief of Police Albert Martinez.
“Imagine you’re at a shooting, and you have eight or 10 officers at the location. Those officers could begin to add the information about where they were, what they did, at the same time without us having to bring them back to headquarters or telling them, ‘Hey, go get on the system when you can,’” Martinez said.
“A system like this will allow them to enter the reports and pictures and data immediately,” he added.
The plan is to eventually equip every officer in the department with a smartphone, says Martinez, since they are essentially modern computers.
While the upgrade will also provide the department with more storage space, videos and cellphone data will still be too large for it to handle. As a result, despite the improvement, certain files will have to be stored separately, according to Martinez.
In 2022, an external audit concluded that the Dallas Police Department’s record management system was problematic because of the lack of clear archiving rules and the reliance on numerous data storage platforms, among other reasons cited.
In fact, the audit was prompted following the deletion of millions of police files at the hands of an IT worker. The lone worker reportedly deleted at least 37 terabytes of data, some of which was recovered.
To put the deletion into perspective, a single terabyte can store roughly a quarter of a million photos or 6 million documents.