Police Chief Forced To Resign After Supporting Citizens Who Armed Up Amid Riots

Lowell, Michigan Police Chief Steven Bukala was forced to resign on Thursday after 25 years with the force, after writing on Facebook in support of four young men who armed themselves against potential violent protesters.

Responding to phone calls that 2nd Amendment demonstrators were open carrying down Main Street, Bukala wrote on the Lowell Police Deparment's Facebook page on Tuesday: "We are aware and no need to call us," adding "We at the Lowell Police Department support the legally armed citizen and the Second Amendment," according to WZZM13.

After a flood of complaints as part of what WZZM says was a "pattern of inappropriate behavior," the city manager told Bukala to resign by 5 p.m. on Friday or be fired at 5:01 p.m.

A disciplinary action report from city manager Michael Burns said Bukala was directed to make the post so residents were aware of the demonstrators. But when Burns read the last line, it appeared to be a political position, "possibly escalating rhetoric." 

Burns asked him to remove that line, and Bukala responded with "This is a true statement."

The post gained some traction within the community, and Burns described the social media activity around it as "hostile." The official Lowell Police Department Facebook page also added to the statement and defended it in the comments. 

"People!" started one comment, which said Lowell has had open carry demonstrators in town before. "Yes people are hypersensitive due to the riots and anarchists that have come to Michigan. They are exercising their right to open carry. No one has to agree or disagree." The comment was signed "Chief." -WZZM

Three days after a riot in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bukala wrote on his personal Facebook page: "So these fine young men called me today. They wanted to exercise their Second Amendment rights and walk down Main Street. They saw what happened in Grand Rapids. They said it’s not going to happen here. We have your backs. I thanked them for letting me know they were in town and to call if they see something."

A photo of four armed men, defended by Lowell Police Chief Steve Bukala, who said they wanted to defend their second amendment right and protect against protesters. (Photo posted on Facebook on June 2, 2020) via WOODTV

On Thursday, the Lowell PD apologized on its Facebook page, writing "We have made mistakes on social media this week, starting with an ill-considered message posted on the Lowell Police Department Facebook page. We then defended this message, arguing with residents or dismissing their concerns."

The PD apologized, adding "we must take this opportunity to listen and learn so we can work together to defeat racism and build a more just and equitable society. We can and must do better."

According to the city manager, Bukala was cited for violating city policy, including "conduct unbecoming of a police officer," adding "Personnel shall not allow personal feelings to influence their professional conduct."