Seattle Police Department officers and firefighters who were fired for not complying with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate marched up the steps of city hall to turn in their boots.
Footage taken from Seattle City Hall and posted to social media shows dozens of people walking up the steps with boots in their hands, preparing to turn them in after they were let go for not complying with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The scene comes after the city’s deadline for first responders to receive the vaccine expired at midnight on Tuesday, leaving many in the department without jobs after failing to comply.
But Seattle officials struck an optimistic tone despite the loss of dozens of first responders, saying that public safety will remain a top priority in the city while arguing that both departments had extremely high vaccination rates.
“If someone calls 911, there will not be significant impacts on response,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The city said that by Monday, 91% of the police force was vaccinated, while about 93% of firefighters had received the jab. The mayor added that about two dozen employees had yet to submit paperwork that either declared their intent to vaccinate or requested an exemption to the rule.
“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,” Durkan said.
But Seattle has already faced an issue of declining numbers in its police force, leading some to question the wisdom of sending officers packing due to the mandate.
“Sadly, this mandate will remove over 100 officers as it stands, and that’s unacceptable,” said the Seattle Police Officers Guild’s Mike Solan.
The guild argued that emergency response times will suffer due to the sudden shortage of officers, adding that the number of employees who will be forced out is larger than the official city tally.
Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold Scoggins said that while it will hurt the department to lose good employees, he’s confident that his firefighters will still be able to meet the needs of residents.
“We may lose some folks, but we’re confident we’re going to get a unit out the door to respond,” Scoggins said.