MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee Police Department has provided some new information as it relates to a "catastrophic failure" of MPD's video recording system that occurred back in January. We have now learned seven criminal cases have been impacted. In those seven cases, MPD says evidentiary interviews are stored on failed disks, and recorded interviews haven't been able to be retrieved.
In each of these cases, MPD says the suspects have been charged based on investigators' reports and evidence that met the standards for criminal charges. And Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says compared with the 28,000 arrests made by MPD, the number of cases impacted is barely a drop in the bucket.
One of the cases affected is a homicide investigation in which multiple interviews of a suspect were conducted but not all of the interviews were retrieved prior to the system failure. Despite this, the homicide suspect has been charged and remains in custody, MPD says.
MPD has implemented an interim system through which interviews are being recorded, and DVD recordings are being made for presentation to prosecutors.
MPD says: "While the interim procedures may, in some cases, result in a slight delay in the production of a DVD copy of an interview, we prioritize those cases that require a DVD for a charging decision to ensure that violent and dangerous criminals are held in jail during the preparation of their cases."
"None of these interviews that we have not yet recovered have affected the cases. There have been no dismissals, no downgraded pleas, nothing of that sort. In fact the cases involved have been charged based on other evidence," Chief Flynn said.
The failure of MPD's MediaSolv system, used to record these interviews, occurred in January.
MPD says the failed disks are under warranty from the vendor, and will be replaced at no cost to the city of Milwaukee.
A data recovery vendor has been contracted to provide services for $49,500. To date, MPD says it has paid that vendor $25,000 from an existing IT budget, with the balance due upon completion of the data recovery work.
In an effort to prevent something like what happened in January from happening again, MPD says it has successfully requested funding to create an automated backup and redundant online storage solution for emergency recovery of recorded interviews.
The anticipated cost for this currently-underway project is $50,000, and MPD is negotiating with video storage vendors to consolidate its agency-wide video storage needs – to include the MediaSolv data – in an effort to both keep up with the evolution of video storage technology and exercise fiscal prudence.
The complete statement released to FOX6 News by MPD is as follows:
What is MediaSolv?
MediaSolv is the vendor for our interview recording system. We use the system to record the video and audio of our interviews. The storage system has redundant storage features and is designed to withstand up to two simultaneous disc failures.
How does it work?
When a member conducts an interview and determines that the contents may be evidentiary in nature, they are able to flag that recording for the purpose of retention. The member is also able to use the system to transfer the recording to a DVD for presentation to a prosecutor for consideration of charges, as any recorded interview to be used as evidence is transferred to a DVD. Members also document the substance of their interviews in written reports.
On January 2, the MediaSolv system suffered what is known as a simultaneous triple failure. This simultaneous triple failure resulted in our inability to retrieve recorded interviews from the system. The failure was caused by a hardware malfunction (i.e., three separate disc drives within the system failed at the same time). The system did not fail because of a lack of storage capacity. The system did not fail because of human error. The system did not fail because of human interference. We have been in contact with the system vendor who has informed us that they are unaware of any other simultaneous triple failures in their deployed hardware.
What was our response?
When we were made aware of the disc failure, we informed all members of the Department via memoranda and provided instructions regarding the interim procedures for recording and transferring interviews to DVDs during the repair of the system. The interim procedures require a member interested in obtaining a DVD of an interview to inform Information Technology staff who will then ask the system vendor to manually extract the requested interview.
We also notified the District Attorney’s Office to inform them of the malfunction and our interim procedures.
At the same time, we contacted the system vendor and began working with them to recover the data held on the malfunctioned discs. When the vendor was unable to recover the data themselves, we identified and contracted with a third-party vendor to handle the data recovery effort. The system vendor and the third-party vendor are working closely to complete the data recovery. As of this morning, we have been informed that the third-party vendor has completed approximately 80% of the programming work necessary to begin recovering data from the discs.
What’s the impact of the malfunction?
Presentation of evidentiary interviews.
Our interim procedures still allow members to conduct interviews and have DVD recordings of those interviews created for presentation to prosecutors. While the interim procedures may, in some cases, result in a slight delay in the production of a DVD copy of an interview, we prioritize those cases that require a DVD for a charging decision to ensure that violent and dangerous criminals are held in jail during the preparation of their cases.
Prosecution of criminal cases.
The great majority of criminal cases involving evidentiary interviews stored on the failed discs already had copies of those interviews recorded on DVDs prior to the January 2 failure. Based on documented requests for interview recordings from the District Attorney’s Office, we have identified seven cases in which evidentiary interviews are stored on the failed discs and the interviews have not yet been retrieved. In each of these cases, the suspects have been charged based on our investigators’ reports and other information and evidence that met the standards for criminal charges. One of the cases is a homicide investigation in which multiple interviews of a suspect were conducted but not all of the interviews were retrieved prior to the system failure. Despite this, the homicide suspect has been charged and remains in custody.
Any cases involving evidentiary interviews conducted after the disc failure were conducted under the interim procedures and are therefore available for transfer to DVD and presentation to prosecutors.
The failed discs are under warranty from the vendor and will be replaced at no cost to the City. The data recovery vendor is contracted to provide services for $49,500. To date, we have paid the vendor $25,000 from our existing Information Technology budget, with the balance due upon completion of the data recovery work.
In our ongoing efforts to improve the security and functionality of our Information Systems technology, we successfully requested funding to create an automated backup and redundant online storage solution for emergency recovery of recorded interviews. The anticipated cost for this currently-underway project is $50,000, and we are negotiating with video storage vendors to consolidate our agency-wide video storage needs – to include the MediaSolv data – in our efforts to both keep up with the evolution of video storage technology and exercise fiscal prudence.
This new information from MPD comes on the same day Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan said he's calling on the state's Department of Justice to conduct an audit of MPD's IT and data operations departments.
State lawmakers and members of the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety Committee have scheduled hearings to discuss this issue -- many of them saying they want answers.
One of the most high-profile cases to be affected by the crash of MPD's video recording system is the case involving the murder of 13-month-old Bill Thao. Thao was killed when shots were fired into a home near 73rd and Mill on December 27th. Thao was killed by a bullet meant for someone else.
21-year-old Darmequaye Cohill is charged in the case. Cohill faces the following criminal charges: first-degree reckless homicide, use of a dangerous weapon — and first-degree reckless endangering safety, and he has pleaded not guilty.
Police interviewed Cohill when he was arrested in January, and that interview was recorded. That video is one of those lost when MPD's "MediaSolv" video recording system crashed.
Bill Thao's family members tell FOX6 News they've been contacted by MPD and notified of the situation.
City and state leaders are concerned after they say they just learned of this crash that happened back in January. Some have expressed worry criminal cases could be delayed.
The Milwaukee Police Department has made public three internal memos about this situation on its website - MilwaukeePoliceNews.com. The memos were written as early as January, and sent to all members of the Milwaukee Police Department.
Additionally, MPD said this on its website:
"The data stored on (the MediaSolv) system became inaccessible in early January 2015 due to a hardware malfunction and has been sent to a data recovery vendor for repair. The vendor reports the recovery is nearing completion. The Milwaukee Police Department is not aware of any cases that have been compromised by this malfunction. The District Attorney’s Office is aware of those cases where the data will not be available until the recovery is complete. Funds have been allocated for both the hardware repair work currently underway and the installation of a backup server to reduce the likelihood of future malfunctions. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Police Department provided information (via the three memos) to its members regarding the malfunction of the MediaSolv system."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he's confident this is a problem that will be fixed, and when the data is recovered, experts will investigate the hardware problem that caused it.
"In most cases, the data had already be transferred to a CD and burned to a CD, but they're working with a company that specializes in this to get the rest of the data," Mayor Barrett said.
That's not good enough for Alderman Bob Donovan, who is running for mayor. He's sent a letter to the state's Department of Justice -- calling for an independent audit of the Milwaukee Police Department's IT department.
"I want to insure everything is running appropriately and I believe as an elected official I have an obligation to ensure our systems and the Milwaukee Police Department -- that everything is done above board and appropriately," Alderman Donovan said.
A hearing called by state lawmakers as to this issue is set for next Wednesday, May 20th at noon at the Capitol.
Milwaukee's Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing on this issue on Thursday, May 28th at 1:30 p.m.