A former police chief who has spoken out about the force’s “sexist, money-grabbing” culture said she despairs for female crime victims knowing how male officers treat women.
Sue Sim, the former chief constable of Northumbria Police, has told how she battled a “boys’ club” of senior officers who believed perks such as chauffeurs, first-class travel and playing golf in work time were their right.
“My biggest battle was with a culture that was sexist, money-grabbing and run by a “boys’ club” of senior officers who thought they could do what they damn well wanted,” Sim, who was the first woman to head a metropolitan police force in Britain, told the Daily Mail.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Tuesday, Sim said she not was speaking out because she was “bitter” about leaving the force, she was “pursuing this relentlessly” to change its culture, and because of “significant fears” over how it treats women.
During her time with Northumbria Police she had launched Operation Crystal after a HMIC report had found the force was “treating rape victims very badly” and in some cases was “no-criming, rape crimes”.
“I have a significant fear for female victims of crime, for female officers within the force, for female staff members within the force,” Sim said.
“If people will be sexist towards a chief constable, then what are they going to do to victims of crime, to female officers and staff within the force - that’s why I’m doing this. I’m not doing this for me.”
It was a place of rampant sexism, cover-ups and the sort of behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other workplace"
Sim told the Daily Mail chief constables and their senior teams are claiming up to £17,000 a year – on top of their salaries – to cover their day-to-day expenditure and household bills. She further alleged officers claimed for private medical insurance, removal bills, chauffeurs and first class travel. One was even allowed to live rent free in part of a castle, the Mail reported.
Senior officers, she said, were taking as many as 64 days annual leave, made decisions about promotions while enjoying a round of golf and thought once they had reached a certain rank they could kick back and “put their feet up on their desks”.
“I don’t think the public have any idea of the sort of attitudes that prevail in that force. It was a place of rampant sexism, cover-ups and the sort of behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other workplace,” the Mail quoted Sim as saying.
Sim, who retied last year after 30 years in the police, wanted to slash benefits to counter cuts to funding, and to keep “as many of our working officers out in the community”, but faced considerable resistance from her colleagues.
A group of up to 12 senior officers simultaneously complained that she had bullied them – prompting a misconduct investigation by QC, Joel Bennathen.
The investigation later cleared Sim of any wrongdoing. The report has been kept secret, but was seen by the Mail. It reported that gender was relevant to the complaints and that many of them would not have been made if Sim was a male chief constable.
Bennathen, according to the Mail, also found it troubling that one officer had made “flimsy” and “exaggerated” complaints which were completely “without foundation”.
Sim gave evidence in a high-profile employment tribunal in May relating to alleged sexism in the force.
During her time as chief constable gunman Raoul Moat shot a policeman, his ex-girlfriend and killed her new lover.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police told the Mail that the new chief constable Steve Ashman had not been provided with the report and had taken independent legal advice with regards to the complaints by Sim.