Primer: How the Dallas Police Department Stores Evidence
Officials confirmed digital evidence was lost; here’s a look at the process Dallas police use to manage and store video.
The issues, top police brass say, are rooted in human error and deficiencies in DPD’s processes for storing evidence.
As the department reviews about 450 pending murder and capital murder cases to determine how many videos were deleted, command staff is making multiple changes — and plan to make more — to storage processes.
Here’s what to know about how Dallas police officers are supposed to store video files that could later be used in criminal cases.
- Police officers must categorize videos at the end of their shift.
Dallas police use Axon’s evidence.com as their digital storage platform. In that system, police are required by department policy to assign categories to videos recorded during shifts to ensure evidence isn’t deleted.
- Each category triggers a different retention length.
Officer Corey Parker, who is on the department’s digital media evidence team, testified during a court hearing last month that the category “call for service/incident” would save a video for 90 days. The category “investigative evidence” would hold it for two years.
Even if no action was taken because of a call, police are required to save related records for at least 90 days, under state law.
- If files aren’t tagged properly when uploaded, they become hard to find.
If officers don’t categorize digital records, the files stay on the server — but become very hard to find, Parker has testified.
An internal audit in November uncovered that Dallas police had nearly 90,000 uncategorized digital records in the data storage platform, police said.
About 5,000 videos are created by Dallas police officers daily, Deputy City Manager Jon Fortune has said. As of last Friday, the department still had about 18,000 uncategorized videos, he said.
- Evidence can be automatically deleted if it’s not saved right.
Digital files saved in the data storage platform could be automatically deleted depending on how the records are categorized.
Once deleted, the file is permanently gone, police have said. The detective or police digital media evidence team must add files to a case to keep them permanently, Parker said in court. If a video is labeled incorrectly, or police don’t pull it into the case quickly enough, the video could be deleted.
- Police are changing the retention systems.
Department officials said videos will now stay on the server longer and more supervisors will keep track of evidence.
DPD expanded the minimum retention period to one year as a result of storage issues The Dallas Morning News brought to light.
To ensure proper processes were being followed, patrol supervisors previously chose two days a month to review videos submitted by their officers. They would then sign off that their officers’ videos are categorized appropriately based on the two days of internal auditing, police said.
Now the department will assign one sergeant in every patrol division whose sole role is ensuring compliance with department policy such as video tagging, training, use-of-force reports and reports that are returned to officers for corrections, police said. Investigative units will be served by a work compliance team of three to five officers and a supervisor.
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