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Boston Police Department fires anti-vax sergeant, two officers who made Jan. 6 posts

Sergeant Shana Cottone (center) shouted a question to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu as she stood across the street from her home with other protesters who are against the vaccine mandate on Jan. 12, 2022 in Roslindale.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file

The Boston Police Department has fired a sergeant who spearheaded the pushback against Mayor Michelle Wu’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and two officers because of their online posts related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The department confirmed Monday night that Sergeant Shana Cottone and Officer Joseph Abasciano had been terminated, citing misconduct.

Cottone, a 15-year veteran of the department and an outspoken critic of the mayor’s policies, has led protests at City Hall and outside Wu’s Roslindale home. On Tuesday, a union attorney said Cottone is appealing her firing.

Abasciano, a retired Marine and Iraq veteran, is known for his affiliation with Back the Blue events across the state, and for being investigated by the department for his presence at the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington in 2021 and attacking former vice president Mike Pence on Twitter.


Additionally, Wu’s administration on Tuesday confirmed that the third police officer, Michael Geary, was fired last fall after he had made inappropriate social media posts.

Wu said on GBH News’ “Boston Public Radio” Tuesday morning that officer, whom she did not name, had also been terminated “related to the Jan. 6 situation.” She said she was not involved in the termination decisions but read them and supports the commissioner.

“Police officers perform some of the most important work in Boston and in our society,” Wu said. “They swear an oath to uphold the laws of our country, our state, and our city, as well as the rules of the Boston Police Department... And that means at a very baseline, our officers have to follow the rules.”

She said each case involved “misconduct that was detailed, investigated, thorough due diligence conducted, and decided through the Internal Affairs Department that there were multiple violations of departmental rules that should lead to termination.”

Asked about Abasciano, Wu said there were “concerning posts that were made that seemed to convey threats.”


Regarding Geary’s case, Wu Tuesday also cited his online posts, which she said included a “threat of violence.”

“Who can trust a police officer who has been given extraordinary authority to seize property or use force or carry a weapon and a badge if their mindset is ‘rats get bats’?” Wu said.

Boston First Responders United, a group that Cottone leads, issued a statement Monday night announcing the firings and claiming Cottone and Abasciano’s terminations came at Wu’s direction.

“The cases against both officers are both politically motivated and retaliation for speaking out in support of personal choice and freedom of speech,” the statement said.

The group went on to claim that “exculpatory evidence provided during both officers’ respective disciplinary hearings was summarily ignored by those in charge of ensuring fair trials,” and that BPD “Internal Affairs Command staff and Mayor Wu’s cabinet level staff collud[ed] to violate the rights of these employees.”

Officer Joseph Abasciano (center with beard and olive green hat) protested with opponents of the city of Boston’s vaccine mandate in front of the State House on Jan. 5, 2022.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/file

The Boston Police Department opened an internal investigation into Abasciano’s conduct in mid-January 2021 after the Globe shared Twitter posts by a user, @mailboxjoe, who another poster had publicly identified as Abasciano.

On the day of the riot, the account posted photos in D.C. of the crowds, calling it a “day for choosing.” It would go on to call Pence, who permitted the certification of votes for Joe Biden as president to proceed, “not a [godly] man” and to accuse him of treason. “I hope you never sleep well again,” @mailboxjoe wrote. “[Y]our Treasonous Act lead [sic] to the murder of an innocent girl and the death of America.”


Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said Abasciano had violated two rules in the department’s code of ethics “and thus he has been terminated from employment with the Boston Police Department.”

“While in the Department’s employ, Abasciano authored a series of social media posts that called into question his ability to provide police services in an unbiased and objective manner,” Cox said in a statement Monday night. “Abasciano’s conduct impairs the operation of this Department and its employees by diminishing the Departments’ reputation and trust within the community.”

Cottone, who was placed on leave last year just days before the city’s vaccine requirement went into effect, committed “multiple violations of several Department rules and procedures,” Cox said.

“Cottone’s conduct in these cases reflects a pattern and inability to adhere to the rules and procedures of this Department,” Cox said in the statement. “These violations along with Cottone’s disciplinary history render her unsuitable to continue her employment with the Boston Police Department and thus her employment has been terminated.”

On Tuesday, Cottone called her firing “an absolute injustice.”

“It’s a disgrace,” she said during a phone interview.

She said she was the target of a political witch hunt, that she was fired for “thought crimes,” and that she never hurt anyone. Her termination, she said, was a classic case of government overreach.

“They’re weaponizing the police department, they’re weaponizing City Hall,” she said.


Patrick Bryant, an attorney representing the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, said the union is filing a grievance and demanding arbitration over Cottone’s firing. On Tuesday, he asked the city to waive the preliminary steps in the arbitrary process so a resolution could be reached sooner.

”There remains a deep concern that Sgt. Cottone is being treated to a different set of rules and procedures than other police officers and that appears to largely stem from City Hall’s displeasure with her,” he said.

The Globe’s attempts to reach Abasciano on Monday were unsuccessful and a message left with his attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association declined to comment.

Emma Platoff of Globe staff contributed to this report.

Nick Stoico can be reached at Follow him @NickStoico. Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.