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Chief Sterne said the order to demote him would cost him an estimated $12,000 in annual pay.

“I’ve been making life-and-death kind of decisions for thousands of incidents and no one has ever doubted my judgment before,” he said.

Chief Sterne said he hopes his response to the demotion notice will result in reconsideration. If the move is not reversed, Mr. Pressler said, they intend to challenge the decision with the District’s office of employee appeals.