It’s hard to believe that we’re now at the point where expressing support for a constitutional right can cause a public official to lose their job, but that Orwellian nightmare’s come true in Lowell, Michigan, where police chief Steven Bukala was forced to resign just days after expressing his support for armed citizens who decided to patrol the downtown area while legally carrying firearms in an attempt to thwart any looting in the area.
The small town of about 4,000 people is located just a few miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where riots resulted in burned out buildings, looted storefronts, and the arrests of at least eight individuals on charges related to rioting or looting. Shortly after the riots took place, the Lowell police department posted on Facebook about several individuals who were lawfully carrying in the small downtown area in an effort to prevent looting or rioting.
“We at the Lowell Police Department support the legally armed citizen and the Second Amendment,” the chief wrote on the department’s Facebook page.
That led to a flurry of comments between residents, with the chief defending the right to open carry.
It also led City Manager Michael Burns to order the chief to remove that sentence in support of the four men.
Several days later, Bukala took to his personal Facebook page and once again spoke about the armed citizens.
“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,” wrote Bukala on Facebook.
According to WOOD-TV, City Manager Michael Burns then ordered Bukula to resign by 5:00 p.m. Thurday or be terminated at 5:01 p.m. The chief tendered his resignation via email, and the Lowell Police Department’s Facebook page then issued an apology for defending the armed citizens and their right to carry.
According to WOOD-TV:
The city manager cited Bukala for violating city policy, including “conduct unbecoming of a police officer,” and “Personnel shall not allow personal feelings to influence their professional conduct.”
The post “inserted political and debatable issues into a departmental notice which causes unneeded concern by some city residents,” the city manager wrote. “Your actions created an unnecessary negative portrayal of the city in some citizens’ view.”
And the city manager’s actions have now created an unnecessary negative portrayal of the city in some citizens’ views. Based on his own standards, why shouldn’t City Manager Michael Burns be the next to resign?
There was nothing controversial about the posting by the Lowell Police Department. It simply noted that the four individuals had a right to open carry, and supported their Second Amendment right to do so. Expressing support for the Second Amendment isn’t inserting “political and debatable issues into a departmental notice.” Expressing opposition to the exercise of a constitutionally protected right would run afoul of conduct unbecoming of a police officer, in my opinion, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of support for the Second Amendment being a firing offense for a public official.
The Lowell Police Department announced Bukula’s departure in another Facebook post on Friday afternoon, and already residents are reacting, with some calling the decision to force the chief out “shameful” and encouraging residents to vote out the city leadership that allowed the city manager to send the chief packing.
Far from quelling any controversy, Burns’ decision seems to have only fanned the flames, with some residents talking about holding an open carry rally outside of City Hall in order to support the dismissed chief and the Second Amendment. It might not be a bad idea for some of the attendees to drop off a copy of the U.S. Constitution with the First Amendment highlighted for the city manager to read as well. If Burns was hoping to showcase Lowell, Michigan as an inclusive space, he’s failed miserably. Instead, he’s managed to convey the impression that the small town is run by folks who can’t or won’t support the rights of residents to exercise their freedom of speech or their right to carry. A few days ago, Lowell seemed like a typical American small town. Now it seems like the kind of place that might try to ban mom, baseball, and apple pie if it was the politically correct thing to do.