PD chief pleads guilty in database misuse case

Lowell Police Chief Steve Bukala
Lowell Police Chief Steve Bukala. (2016 file)

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Lowell police chief has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after he misused a police database.

On Wednesday, Chief Steve Bukala pleaded to willful neglect of duty by a public officer. In exchange, other misdemeanors with lesser penalties were dismissed.

The prosecutor recommended probation rather than the maximum year in jail and Bukala was sentenced to fines and fees totaling $1,425. He’ll also have to undergo retraining of the Law Enforcement Information Network within 90 days.

LEIN is a database that lists people’s personal information and includes details about criminal backgrounds. It’s only available to law enforcement and is strictly regulated. Specific details about Bukala’s misuse of the system have not been released.

“I wanted to ensure that Chief Bukala takes responsibility for what he did without losing his ability to work as a police officer,” Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor-Pratt said in a statement. “From this point on, whether Chief Bukala succeeds in maintaining his career and improving his integrity is up to him.”

The Barry County Prosecutor’s Office handled the case after the Kent County prosecutor recused himself due to a conflict.

Bukala was placed on leave in April as Michigan State Police investigated him. Lowell authorities said earlier this month that he would be reinstated, though he would be on placed on unpaid leave for a time after his court case was settled.