Thousands of 911 calls were erased from the Waterbury Police Department’s hard drive during a software update, according to the interim police chief.
“This is an issue for us,” said Chief Fernando Spagnolo. “There is no doubt about that. I mean this could potentially impact any criminal or civil litigation that the city is involved in.”
Spagnolo said the issue was discovered in May when the department could not track down a call connected to an investigation.
“We had a request from the State’s Attorney Office for a 911 tape in a criminal case. Our officers went to retrieve the recording and found that it wasn’t there.”
Spagnolo said a software upgrade is responsible. He said the upgrade recorded over the calls with new data, deleting the backup of the hard drive. Northwest CT Public Safety Communications, a non-profit based in Waterbury, oversees the hard drives for the Waterbury and Middlebury Police Departments. Middlebury Police said none of their investigations were impacted. They are still looking into how many calls were lost.
”We don’t have anything lingering, so we’re fortunate with that,” said Middlebury Police Chief Fran Dabbo.
Northwest Communications declined an on-camera interview but in a statement the President of the Board of Directors Robert Retallick, said “State record retention regulations require public safety agencies keep and archive recordings for 30 days from the time of their origin. At no time have recordings been erased within 30 days and all 911 recordings at northwest are appropriately archived in compliance with regulations.”
The Freedom of Information Commission emphasized there must be fail-safe procedures in place to preserve 911 calls.
”They demonstrate the public’s first interaction with law enforcement, said Executive Director Colleen Murphy. “They highlight what the circumstances were for the call, without that audio, that takes away from the transparency.”