Updated at 1:24 p.m.

Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox responded Monday night to accusations of political discrimination from a pair of recently fired officers, saying the two individuals were dismissed for different reasons after internal investigations.

Two former members of the Boston Police Department, Sgt. Shana Cottone and Officer Joe Abasciano, said they were terminated from employment Monday. Both have amassed media attention from actions related to their political views over the last two years. In a statement via Boston First Responders United, the anti-vaccine mandate group for public safety employees, Cottone and Abasciano charged that their firings were “politically motivated” and retaliation “for speaking out in support of personal choice and freedom of speech.”

Cottone was one of the officers leading the charge against Mayor Michelle Wu’s vaccine mandate as the city began emerging from strict quarantine measures last year. She repeatedly protested in front of the mayor’s Roslindale home, which prompted the Boston City Council to scale back the lawful hours of targeted picketing.

Abasciano took part in the anti-vaccine mandate protests and was also one of two officers investigated for tweets and alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in 2021.

In a statement to GBH News Monday night, Cox said the firings were decided in separate cases based on their conduct.

“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,” the commissioner said. “Abasciano’ s conduct impairs the operation of this Department and its employees by diminishing the Departments’ reputation and trust within the community. Due to this Mr. Abasciano is no longer a Boston Police officer."

The commissioner did not say which of Abasciano’s specific social media posts violated the department’s rules of conduct or canon of ethics, but an internal affairs document obtained by GBH News shows his confirmed Twitter account tweeting messages that could be interpreted as threatening toward then-U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and other officials.

  • Tweet posted at 6:44 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021: “MAGA Millions Patriots here in DC. Today is a day for choosing. Today there will only two parties in America. Traitors and Patriots!”
  • Tweet posted at 8:14 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021: “Hey @senatemajldr look out your window. Millions of Patriots are on your doorstep and we are watching. It is a time for choosing. Are yiu a traitor or are you a patriot.” @senatemajldr is the former Twitter handle of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • Tweet posted at 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021: “Everything that happens going forward @ VP is now on your conscience.”
  • Tweet posted at 3:54 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021: “I hope you never sleep well again @VP your Treasonous Act lead to the murder of an innocent girl and the death of America. You are not a Godley man. I guess @LLinWood was right about you all along.” @LLinWood was an account that previously made direct statements about plans to harm the Vice President. Abasciano claimed the tweet was not posted in reference to those threats.
  • Tweet posted at 5:22 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021: “What I saw in today frankly made me weep for our once-great nation. The Political Elitist Class has successfully turned Americans against each other. Patriots v Law Enforcement trying to do their jobs in a no-win position. I fear this Treasonous election has killed the republic.”

The investigator who examined Abasciano’s case — which initially involved a charge of neglect of duty/unreasonable judgment — ultimately recommended a finding of “not sustained.”

Reached by phone Monday, Abasciano said his termination was “clearly” retaliatory and punitive.

“It’s my First Amendment right to express my feelings and sentiments,” he said. “The mayor is pushing for an overarching, anti-First Amendment policy for all city employees where they’re not allowed to speak out against the City Council, [or] her [the mayor's] city policy.”

Abasciano added that, at one point, his case was closed, then re-opened for further investigation before he was ultimately fired.

GBH News has repeatedly asked the mayor about Abasciano’s case during her monthly appearances on the midday Boston Public Radio program.

In her latest appearance Tuesday afternoon, Wu backed the commissioner’s decision to fire Cottone and Abasciano.

Mayor Michelle Wu on BPR | March 14, 2023

“I support Commissioner Cox's decision to move forward with termination for these officers. Each has a separate set of actions that was detailed [and] investigated,” Wu said, adding that a third officer, Michael Geary, was also recently terminated.

Geary, Wu said, responded to an FBI call for help identifying Jan. 6 rioters with a message that said “rats get bats.”

“Police officers perform some of the most important work in our society,” the mayor 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, that is how we implement public safety is by ensuring the public trust that the laws will be upheld and that rules will be followed fairly. That means at a very baseline, our officers have to follow the rules.”

Regarding Cottone, Cox said she had “multiple violations” of several department rules and procedures.

“There were six separate internal affairs investigations,” Cox said, pointing to a neglect of duty charge, a respectful treatment charge, a statement of opinions charge and a conformance to laws charge.

“Cottone’s conduct in these cases reflects a pattern and inability to adhere to the rules and procedures of this Department. 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."

Said Cottone: “The type of protest I engaged in was peaceful protest. That’s the type of protest that our country was founded on. Standing outside of the mayor’s house chanting 'Shame on Wu' is not really the most sensational type of protest.”

Both officers have obtained attorneys and pledged to appeal their firings.

This story was updated to include Mayor Michelle Wu's comments on Boston Public Radio.