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Texas attorney general asked to investigate Dallas police record handling

Texas attorney general asked to investigate Dallas police record handling

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Dallas Morning News attorney Paul Watler has called on Attorney General Greg Abbott's office to investigate whether the Dallas Police Department is in violation of state open records laws.
Dallas Morning News attorney Paul Watler has called on Attorney General Greg Abbott's office to investigate whether the Dallas Police Department is in violation of state open records laws.

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Published by: The Dallas Morning News on Jul 17, 2012
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Paul
C.
WatlerBoardCertified,CivilTrial
Law
TexasBoardofLegalSpecialization(214)953-6069(DirectDial)(214)661-6669(DirectFax)pwatler((l!jw.com
July12.2012OfficeoftheAttorneyGeneralOpenRecordsDivisionATTN:AmandaCrawford,Esq.P.O.Box12548Austin,TX78711
ViaCiWIRRR71603901
984867359727
andfacsimileat
(512)475-2994RE:ComplaintRegardingDallasPoliceDepartment'sNoncompliancewithTexasPublicInformationActasaResultofImproperRecordsRetentionPracticesandProceduresDearMs.Crawford:Iwriteonbehalfofmyclient,
TheDallasMorningNewsC'TheNews"),
toexpressconcernsregardingtheDallasPoliceDepartment's("DPD")failuretocomplywiththeletterandspiritoftheTexasPublicInformationAct("TPIA")asaresultofitsimproperandnoncompliantrecordsretentionpracticesandprocedures.Forthereasonsdiscussedbelow,
TheNews
urgentlyrequeststhattheAttorneyGeneral'sOpenRecordsDivisioninvestigateDPD'scompliancewiththeTPIAanditsrecordsretentionpracticesandproceduresandtakeappropriateactiontoenforceapplicablelaw,includingtheTPIA.Asyouknow,theTexasLocalGovernmentCode,theTexasAdministrativeCode,theDallasCityCode,andtheDPDRecordsRetentionSchedulemandatethatDPDretainrecords,includingemailandtextcommunications,forcertainminimumtimeperiodsdependingonthesubjectmatteroftherecords.
See
Tex.LocalGov'tCode§§201.001-205.009;13Tex.Admin.Code§7.125;DallasCityCode§§39C-l
etseq.';
DPDDocumentRetentionSchedule(April15,
2009l
TherecordsretentionperiodssetforthintheTexasAdministrativeCodeandtheDPDDocumentRetentionSchedulearemandatory,andDPDisprohibitedfromdisposingofarecordpriortotheexpirationofitsretentionperiod.
See
Tex.LocalGov'tCode§202.001(a);13Tex.Admin.Code§7.l23(c);DallasCityCode§
39C-15.
I
AcopyofDallasCityCode
§§
39C-J
etseq.
isattachedheretoasExhibitA.AcopyofthecurrentDPDDocumentRetentionScheduleisattachedheretoasExhibitB.
3
Wenotethatbothstateandlocallawsetforthcriminalpenaltiesforthosewhodestroyordeletegovernmentalrecordswithoutauthorization.Tex.Gov'tCode552.351;LocalGov'tCode
§
DallasCode
8242532v.4131015/00003
 
ATTN:AmandaCrawford,Esq.July12,2012Page2StrictcompliancewithallapplicablerecordsretentionschedulesisessentialbecauseOPOrecordsconstitutelocalgovernmentrecords,andallsuchrecordsaresubjecttotheTPIA,Chapter552oftheTexasGovernmentCode.
See
Tex.LocalGov'tCode§201.009(a);
seealso
Tex.GovtCode
§
552.002(b)(definingpublicinformationsubjecttodisclosure).Asdiscussedbelow,OPO'simproperandnoncompliantrecordsretentionpracticesandproceduresareimpeding
TheNews'
rightofaccesstopublicrecordsinviolationoftheTPIA.
TheNews'
concernsaboutOPO'srecordsretentionpracticesandproceduresemanatefromOPO'sresponsetoaseriesofTPIArequestssubmittedby
TheNews,
throughitsreporterScottGoldstein,onMarch15,2012.TheTPIArequestssoughtallemailsandtextmessagessenttoorfromtwonamedOPOofficers,DeputyChiefChesWilliamsandLt.JeffCotner,thatsameday.OneweekafterMr.GoldsteinsubmittedtheTPIArequests,OPOrespondedbyclaimingthatnoresponsiverecordswerefound.
4
UponreceivingOPO'sresponse,Mr.GoldsteinaskedOPOofficialstoconfirmthatDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.CotnerdidnotsendasingleemailortextmessageonMarch15,2012.InmeetingswithseveralOPOofficials,includingrepresentativesoftheOPORecordsDivision,Mr.GoldsteinwastoldthatDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.Cotner'sMarch15,2012emailcommunicationslikelyhadbeenmovedtothe"trash"andthenthe"dumpster,"andifboththe"trash"and"dumpster"wereemptied,thecommunicationswouldhavebeenpermanentlydeletedandunabletoberecovered.OPOofficialsalsotoldMr.GoldsteinthatOPOpoliciesandstatelawgenerallydonotobligateOPOtoretainemailcommunicationsforanyperiodoftime,andregardless,theOPOemailserver(s)areatleastnineyearsoldandthussooutdatedandlimitedthatOPOisunabletoretainemailsformorethan60daysanyway.ThestatedOPOrecordsretentionpracticesandproceduresfailtocomplywithnumerousprovisionsoftheTexasLocalGovernmentCode,theTexasAdministrativeCode,theDallasCityCode,andtheOPORecordsRetentionSchedule.Asaninitialmatter,andcontrarytoOPOofficials'assertions,boththeOPORecordsRetentionScheduleandstatelawrequirethatallOPOpersonnelretainrecords,includingemailcommunications,forcertainminimumtimeperiodsdependingonthesubjectmatterofthecommunications.
See
13Tex.Admin.Code§7.125;OPODocumentRetentionSchedule;
seealso
Tex.LocalGov'tCode§201.003(defining"localgovernmentrecord").Likewise,statelawmandatesthatOPO'semailserver(s)beofsufficientcapacityandcapabilitytoallowfortheretentionofallrecordsinfullcompliancewithapplicablerecordsretentionschedules.
See
13Tex.Admin.Code§§7.72,7.76;
seealso13
Admin.Code§7.79("Anelectronicrecordkeepingsystemmustnotprovideanimpediment
39C-21.WefurthernotethatthecriminalprovisionsofTPIASection552.351donotcontainatemporalrequirementthatis,apersoncommitsanoffenseunderSection552.351iftheperson"willfullydestroys,mutilates,removeswithoutpermission...,oralterspublicinformation,"evenifsuchdestruction,mutilation,removal,oralterationoccursintheabsenceofapendingTPIArequestforthepublicinformationthatisdestroyed,mutilated,removed,oraltered.
See
Tex.Gov'tCode§552.351.
4
CopiesofDPD'sresponsestotheMarch15,2012TPIArequestsareattachedheretoasExhibitC.
131015/00003
 
ATTN:AmandaCrawford,Esq.July12,2012Page3toaccesstopublicrecords.").TotheextentthatDPD'semailserver(s)areincapableofstoringrecordsorpresentanimpedimenttopublicaccesstosuchrecords,DPDisinviolationofstatelaw.
Seeid.;
Tex.Gov'tCode§552.004.Additionally,
TheNews
haslearnedthatemailcommunicationssenttoandfromDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.CotneronMarch15,2012weredeletedinapparentviolationofapplicablerecordsretentionschedulesandtheTPIA.ThroughseparateTPIArequestsforemailcommunicationsofDPDChiefDavidBrownandAssistantChiefCynthiaVillarreal,
TheNews
hasobtainedemailcommunicationssenttoandfromDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.CotneronMarch15,2012.
5
Suchcommunicationswereresponsiveto
TheNews'
March15,2012TPIArequests,butDPDclaimedtherewerenoresponsiverecords,ostensiblybecauseDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.Cotnerhaddeletedthem.Evenacursoryreviewoftheseemailcommunicationsrevealsthattheirsubjectmatter-internalaffairsinvestigation,criminalhistoryreport,andoffenseinvestigationsrecordsdictatesthattheyberetainedforaminimumofthree(3)yearsanduntiltheoffense'sstatuteoflimitationshasrun,respectively.DPDRecordsRetentionSchedulePS4075-01D,PS4175-05A,PS4125-05A.ThefactthattheseemailcommunicationswerenotretainedbyDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.Cotner,asacknowledgedbyDPDinresponseto
TheNews'
March15,2012TPIArequest,establishesthatDPDhasfailedtocomplywithmandatoryrecordsretentionschedulesaswellastheTPIA.DPD'sresponsetoamorerecentTPIArequestfrom
TheNews
servesasanevenstarkerexampleofDPD'sfailuretocomplywithmandatoryrecordsretentionschedules,andultimately,theTPIA.ByemaildatedMay3,2012,
TheNews,
throughMr.Goldstein,requestedcopiesof,amongotherrecords,"allletterssentfromtheDPDOpenRecordsUnitin2012informinganopenrecordsrequesterthatnorecordswerefound."DPDuntimelyrespondedbyletterdatedMay18,2012,andadvisedMr.Goldsteinthat"norecordswerefound"thatwereresponsivetohisTPIArequest."DPD'sresponseisbeliedbythefactthatMr.Goldsteinhimselfhasreceivednumerous"norecord"responsesfromtheDPDin2012,includingbutnotlimitedtotheresponsesattachedasExhibitChereto.
7
Onlyonepossibilityremains:DPDhasfailedtoretainallofits"norecord"responsestoTPIArequestssinceatleastJanuary1,2012.Thisisaclearviolationoftheapplicableretentionschedules,whichrequireDPDtoretainsuchrecordsforatleastoneyear.13Tex.Admin.Code§7.125(scheduleGR1000-34a);DPDRecordsRetention
5
ArepresentativesampleoftheemailcommunicationssenttoandfromDeputyChiefWilliamsandLt.CotneronMarch15,2012.obtainedinresponsetoseparateTPIArequestsforemailcommunicationsfromChiefBrownandAssistantChiefVillarreal.areattachedheretoasExhibitO.CopiesoftheMay3,2012TPIArequestandOPO'sMay18,2012responsetheretoareattachedheretoasExhibitE.AlthoughOPO'sresponseisdatedMay18,2012,theresponsewasnotactuallysenttoMr.GoldsteinuntilJuneII,2012.OPO'sunexplaineddelayinprovidingtheTPIAresponsetoMr.GoldsteinisitselfaviolationoftheTPIA.
See
Tex.Gov'tCode§552.221.
7
Acopyofyetanother"norecord"responsefromOPO,datedApril24,2012,isattachedheretoasExhibitF.
8242532vAI10IS/GOOD3

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