Whaley Bridge police chief left Twitter over 'sexist and homophobic' hairstyle abuse

George Martin

A police officer has revealed she was forced to leave Twitter because of "sexist and homophobic" abuse over her hairstyle.

Deputy chief constable Rachel Swann said she was subjected to the abuse after appearing on TV several times during the evacuation of Whaley Bridge in August.

Ms Swann, the senior officer in the operation, said she became aware of the hurtful comments soon after the broadcasts.

"The bit that astounded me was I could not believe that my mere existence could cause such a depth of feeling," she told BBC News.

A British Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter transports sandbags as work continues to shore up the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir after it was damaged in heavy rainfall, although dry banks in background show that pumping water from the reservoir has reduced the threat, near the village of Whaley Bridge, England, Tuesday Aug. 6, 2019.  The reservoir is being drained to enable inspection and repairs to be carried out while the nearby village of Whaley Bridge has been evacuated because of the threat of inundation from water if the dam breaks. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
Ms Swann made several TV appearances during the Whaley Bridge dam incident. (Getty)

"I can take a bit of banter but then it became sexist and homophobic, and really, really insulting.

"The bit that really hurt was when people said I had no standards and I was letting policing down."


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Ms Swann said the abuse peaked when a press agency "wanted to run a story on my hair" and so she took a break from Twitter.

"Some of the comments were misogynistic and homophobic and the abuse I received has been recorded as a hate incident, in the same way it would be for the public or my officers and staff,” she added.

"In recent years, we have seen children feeling bullied by their peers through personal attacks on social media; with youngsters in some cases so desperate it has resulted in suicide due to the pressures of the abuse."

More than 1,500 people were evacuated from the Derbyshire town from August 1 due to fears that the dam wall at the Toddbrook Reservoir would collapse after heavy rain.

An RAF Chinook was drafted in and 530 tonnes of aggregate used as part of efforts to reinforce the spillway.

Authorities said in August that work on the damaged dam in Whaley Bridge will take years and cost “millions”.