By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Craig Greeno, a Denver Sheriff Department deputy, worked his last shift on Thursday and left the job he held for 9 years, saying “It was the vaccine order that put me over the edge.”

Craig Greeno

(credit: CBS)

Greeno, who guarded inmates at Denver Health Medical Center for the department, said leaving a job that paid him around $90,000 a year, including overtime, was bittersweet, but he said “I don’t like to be told I don’t have a choice. It’s a personal decision.”

In August, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that all city employees would have to be vaccinated by the end of this month or face possible termination. As of Sept. 17, 70.1% of Denver Sheriff Department deputies had been vaccinated and 74.7% of Denver police officers were vaccinated. That’s far less than the 87% of city employees who have been been vaccinated. And it’s less than the vaccination rate for Denver’s general population — 80% of those eligible in Denver have received at least one shot.

Greeno, 45, a married father of five, said there had been other issues at work bothering him: mandatory overtime that kept him away from his family and a feeling that administrators didn’t support rank and file deputies. But he said the vaccine order rankled him to the point he walked away from the job.

Greeno told CBS4 many other deputies chafed under the vaccine order and would like to leave, but could not afford to make the move.

“A lot of people, I know, are like me,” he said. “They didn’t want to be forced to do it.”

After mulling over the vaccine mandate, Greeno said, “I just decided I was done.”

He says he will take some time off before looking for another job.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said during a phone interview with CBS4.

But one thing that won’t happen is he will not get vaccinated.

“I don’t plan on getting it,” he said, calling himself “anti-vaccine to an extent.”

“I don’t know what it’s going to do to me.”

He said some fellow deputies became ill after being vaccinated. Greeno explained his mother and father got vaccinated but after getting a COVID shot, his mother suffered a kidney infection and had to be hospitalized. And he said when one of his children was much younger, the infant got sick after receiving any vaccines.

Denver’s Deputy director of safety, Mary Dulacki, told CBS4 that her agency — which oversees the police and sheriff’s departments — is preparing for a possible wave of firings and resignations in law enforcement agencies that are already short-staffed. Dulacki said contingency staffing plans are being formulated for what may happen after the Sept. 30 deadline.

Craig Greeno appears to have no regrets about his decision noting that the pay was “really good but money isn’t everything.”

Brian Maass