Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 1, 2013

Patrol camera turned off days before Estes arrest

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A patrol car camera that could have captured footage of Mayor Michael Estes’ drunken driving arrest was turned off days before the incident and another potential video won’t be available until Election Day, police said.

Estes, 63, was pulled over Oct. 23 and arrested on a misdemeanor first-offense operating while intoxicated charge.

The Record-Eagle filed a state Freedom of Information Act request for police car footage depicting the traffic stop and subsequent arrest.

Traverse City Police Chief Mike Warren said the arresting officer’s in-car camera was malfunctioning before the Oct. 23 incident. He said a patrol car that provided backup on the traffic stop may have captured footage, but it remains on a password-protected computer server. He said an officer who knows the passwords won’t be back to work until Nov. 5 — the day voters decide whether to re-elect Estes.

“How much that it captured we won’t know until (Nov. 5),” Warren said.

In July, the city commission approved a $13,000 bid from Digital Ally to install new in-car cameras in city police patrol vehicles. The cameras are constantly running and record footage when patrol vehicles activate their lights.

“It record everything digitally and when they pull up to the station in one of two spots the information is shot to (a) server,” Warren said.

Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling said the footage is wiped from the camera’s memory after the download. He said the camera in the arresting officer’s vehicle had trouble automatically downloading its footage days before Estes’ arrest.

“It said ‘disc full’ for two days and the officer just turned it off,” Ayling said.

Warren said three vehicles have the new system and one -- in the car involved in the Estes stop -- was malfunctioning. Ayling said technical support from Digital Ally informed him that changes to the password protection can’t be done without the officer in charge of the system.

A representative from Digital Ally declined to comment.

Warren said footage from the second vehicle will be provided to the Record-Eagle on Nov. 5.

Estes is scheduled for an 86th District Court arraignment on Nov. 4.