Demoted Orange County sheriff's sergeant to get rank back

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

A panel of peers agreed Monday that an Orange County sheriff's sergeant who was demoted to corporal should get his rank back.

The professional standards case against demoted Sgt. James Batie exposed issues within the undercover drug unit, including fighting among officers and blowing cover through carelessness.

Six months ago, Batie was a 10-year sergeant on the lieutenant's list with a 23-year spotless discipline record at the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Things turned when Batie befriended Waleed Albakri, a deputy in his drug squad.

Batie said Albakri turned on him after Batie disciplined the subordinate for subpar performance.

"This is, this is his payback," said Batie. "He did whatever he can to get back at me."

Batie made his case to a panel of three sheriff's office superiors. On top of his demotion, he was also given a 40-hour suspension last month after the department found he violated policies and failed to lead.

Internal Affairs said Batie made sexual comments about Albakri's wife and sister-in-law and his sexual prowess.

But Batie said the sexually charged horseplay was mutual.

"That culture exists, and they knew about it," he said. "No one enforced it. No one enforced that."

Batie said he went to superiors for help in changing the culture in the undercover drug unit, but Internal Affairs said it was his responsibility to do that.

The panel is recommending to the sheriff that Batie return to being a sergeant. It will also recommend another 40-hour suspension and 12 months of probation.

"The atmosphere that they are bathed in continuously on the street, it's very, very difficult for that to shut off when they get back to the office," said Capt. Tom Cockriel.