Dallas council members on Wednesday approved hiring law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which employs former U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox as a partner, to investigate what led to millions of police files being deleted earlier this year.
The deal comes after city officials on Oct. 14 named the Chicago-based group as their top recommendation to launch an outside review of the incident. The city agreed to pay $548,450 for the investigation.
Cox, who resigned as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas in December and joined Kirkland & Ellis last month, will lead the four-person team doing the review.
She told council members during the Oct. 14 meeting that she estimated it would take 60 days for her firm to investigate and another 30 days to finish a report to explain how and why the files were deleted. The goal is also to identify issues with the IT department’s data management practices and offer recommendations.
Dallas fired an IT employee in August after the city says he deleted 8.7 million police archive photos, videos, audio, case notes and other items when he was supposed to move them from cloud storage to a physical city server. About half of the files, which stemmed from family violence cases, were deleted at the end of March and the rest were erased sometime before then, city officials have said.
Some of the city’s top administrative and police officials knew the files were deleted in April, but the mayor, City Council and the public learned about the missing data in August after the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office sent a memo to defense attorneys about it. The DA’s Office was also unaware for months until prosecutors began asking the city about missing files.
The city’s IT department released a 131-page report in September about the incident that lays out systemic issues in the department and how the city stores electronic files. The report found fault with the employee, but also pointed out that the department lacked basic policies and procedures for backing up archived data as well as oversight, reviews and staff training.
The report said nearly 17,500 Dallas County District Attorney’s Office cases may have been impacted. The police department and district attorney’s office have said they haven’t yet found any impacted criminal cases, but a review is ongoing.