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Seattle police, firefighters who refused vaccine, drop their boots on city hall after being fired

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Dozens of Seattle city police officers and firefighters traipsed up steps to City Hall on Tuesday and turned in their boots after being discharged from service for their refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine, as they were mandated to do.

Video footage posted online shows several people, many with boots in hand and some donning firefighting helmets, walking up steps to the building.

The video clips come as the city-imposed deadline for all first responders to take the jab expired on Tuesday at midnight, which left those who had not complied unemployed.

City officials sounded optimistic despite losing scores of police officers and firefighters, all of whom were praised nearly universally during the pandemic before vaccines were available for remaining on the job despite the unknowns about the virus. Officials went on to argue that both departments experienced high rates of vaccines.

“If someone calls 911, there will not be significant impacts on response,” said Democratic Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Other city officials noted that by Monday, 91 percent of the police department and 93 percent of firefighters had been vaccinated. Durkan went on to note that some two dozen city employees had not yet submitted paperwork indicating whether they would take the vaccine or request an exemption.

“We’re in much better shape than we thought we would be because so many people have done exactly what we asked them to do,” said the mayor.

“In the coming days, departments will continue to review exemption requests and, over the coming weeks, engage in an interactive process with individual employees to determine whether a permanent or temporary reasonable accommodation is available,” the mayor’s office noted further in a news release.

“During the separation process, if an employee commits to becoming fully vaccinated, the city may offer a last chance to get vaccinated, depending on the circumstances,” the release continued.

However, others said that at least as far as the police department is concerned, numbers were already dwindling following last summer’s riots and protests as well as the city counsel’s push to defund the department, adding that an additional loss of officers is going to be problematic.

“Sadly, this mandate will remove over 100 officers as it stands, and that’s unacceptable,” noted Seattle Police Officers Guild official Mike Solan, who noted that the city had lost about 350 officers over the past 18 months.

The organization had argued that emergency response times will be negatively impacted by a sudden dearth of officers. The organization also said that there will be more employees forced to resign than city officials are willing to admit.

“Though we’ve heard and seen the city’s media blitz on the current vaccine verification numbers, SPOG has asked the city for clarification on these numbers as we believe that the city is not being fully transparent,” Solan noted in a statement.

“Trading the COVID-19 public health crisis for a looming public safety staffing crisis is gross mismanagement,” Solan added. “SPOG believes that this isn’t about whether or not you’re vaccinated, it is strictly about saving jobs and continuing to provide public safety to the city of Seattle.”

Meanwhile, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scroggins said he believes his existing personnel will be able to handle emergencies though he expressed regret at the loss of good firefighters.

“We may lose some folks, but we’re confident we’re going to get a unit out the door to respond,” Scoggins said.

Jon Dougherty

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