Police Chief Says She Faced Sexist And Homophobic Abuse Over Hairstyle

Rachel Swann quit Twitter after TV appearances when managing the Whaley Bridge dam collapse.

A senior police officer has spoken out about how she received “sexist and homophobic” abuse online while overseeing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people as a dam collapsed.

Rachel Swann, deputy chief constable of Derbyshire Police, said the insults she received have been recorded as a hate crime after she was told she was “letting policing down” while overseeing the Whaley Bridge crisis.

Swann told BBC Radio Derby that she decided to quit Twitter after a press agency “wanted to run a story on my hair”.

The police chief made several media appearances in August as about 1,500 people were forced to leave the Peak District town because of heavy rain damaging the dam wall.

Speaking about the abuse for the first time, she said: “I can take a bit of banter but it became sexist and homophobic, and really insulting.

<strong>Rachel Swann speaking to the media.</strong>
Rachel Swann speaking to the media.
PA Wire/PA Images

“The bit that really hurt was people saying I had no standards and I was letting policing down.”

“Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I might have a slightly different hairstyle. Yes, I am quite small,” she said.

“The bit that astounded me was I could not believe that my mere existence could cause such a depth of feeling.”

Swann said the “trolling and negative comments” she received were endemic of abuse handed down to other members of the public, and warned how it has led to vulnerable young people taking their lives.

The officer, who has since returned to Twitter, said she hoped her high-profile appearances help portray the police force as a diverse workplace.

“In a funny sort of way I made my stand without meaning to. If some good comes out of that that’s fine, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t upset me,” she said.