Seattle Police, Firefighters Fired Over Vaccine Mandate Turn in Their Boots in Protest

Seattle police officers and firefighters who lost their jobs for not complying with the city's COVID vaccine mandate have turned in their boots in protest.

Videos posted on social media showed dozens of people walking up the steps of Seattle City Hall, some carrying their boots in their hands and at least one person brandishing a sign.

A picture posted by Katie Daviscourt, a journalist for conservative news site The Post Millennial, showed multiple pairs of boots left on the steps, along with a Seattle police uniform.

Seattle PD and Seattle Fire walking up the stairs of Seattle City Hall to turn in their boots. These a excellent officers and firefighters with years of service that truly can’t be replaced. pic.twitter.com/OmfrMhCNpc

— Katie Daviscourt🇺🇸 (@KatieDaviscourt) October 19, 2021

The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) said all but 11 employees had submitted proof of vaccination or an exemption request. The separation process for those employees began on Wednesday.

In a statement to Newsweek, a fire department spokesperson said the event in Occidental Park was reportedly organized by off-duty SFD members who are against the vaccine mandates.

"From our understanding, the event was focused on feeding breakfast to community members in the area, followed by a march to Seattle City Hall," the spokesperson said.

"The department was made aware during the event that several department vehicles and on-duty members were in attendance. The department did not authorize participation by on-duty personnel. The members assigned to those units were immediately contacted and asked to leave the event (unless dispatched to an emergency in the area)."

Photos and videos that showed some off-duty firefighters in uniform without masks were provided to the department's Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for further investigation, the spokesperson added.

All Seattle city employees had to be vaccinated against COVID by 11.59 p.m. on Monday, under an order issued in August by Mayor Jenny Durkan. The police department is 92 percent vaccinated, the mayor's office said on Tuesday, and the fire department is 93 percent vaccinated.

More than 350 police officers had not submitted proof of vaccination in early October, raising concerns about a shortage of officers when the deadline arrived. A spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department told Newsweek on Wednesday that only six officers did not submit any forms regarding their vaccination status. "They are not to report to work, and the separation process has begun for all six," the spokesperson said.

Mike Solan, the president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, has claimed that the city's figures may not be accurate, however.

"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 said in a statement on Monday.

The city lost heroes today. pic.twitter.com/RDUUFm5CKy

— Katie Daviscourt🇺🇸 (@KatieDaviscourt) October 19, 2021

Solan added that the vaccine mandate could worsen staffing shortages and threaten public safety, noting that the city's department had lost close to 350 officers over the past 18 months.

"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."

At a news conference on Monday, Durkan said public safety would remain a priority. "If someone calls 911, there will not be significant impacts on response," Durkan said.

Durkan's office said over 94 percent of about 11,000 city employees were vaccinated as of Tuesday, and just 97 employees had declined to submit proof of vaccination or seek an exemption.

"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 said 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."

Newsweek has reached out to the office of Mayor Jenny Durkan for comment.

Police stock photo
File photo of police officers. Some Seattle police officers and firefighters who lost their jobs for not complying with a COVID vaccine mandate turned in their boots at Seattle City Hall. iStock

Update 10/20/21, 10:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from the Seattle Police Department.

Update 10/21/21, 3:09 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from the Seattle Fire Department.