Homophobic trolls mercilessly mocked a police officer for her short hair. Now she’s set to become county’s next chief constable

Police chief Rachel Swann (L) addresses reporters about the evacuation of Whaley Bridge in August. (Screen capture via BBC)

One of Britain’s top police officers who faced a torrent of homophobic and sexist criticism for her short hairstyle is on track to become Derbyshire’s next chief constable.

Deputy chief constable Rachel Swann was a crucial lifeline for many Whaley Bridge residents in England’s north after a damaged dam broke, leading to evacuations and major thoroughfare closures in 2019.

But after speaking to reporters, she entered the firing line of internet trolls. The virtual virtriol proved so grating to Swann that she quit Twitter altogether, shocked her “mere existence could cause such a depth of feeling”.

But months on, and Derbyshire police and crime commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa announced Tuesday (28 July) that Swann is his preferred candidate for the top job.

She will now be subject to a confirmation hearing by Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Panel, the Daily Mail reported.

Rachel Swann: Deputy police chief led a British town out of disaster. Yet people mocked her spiky hairstyle. 

As the senior officer in the Toddbrook Reservoir operation, locals of the northwest English town grew to know Swann’s face well.

Days after the county was pummelled with intense rainfall, the reservoir crumbled. Resulting in around 1,500 residents leaving their homes.

However, after she did a press conference in August discussing the dam, trolls took to Twitter to decry her.

She told BBC Radio Derby at the time: “Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I might have a slightly different hairstyle.

“Yes, I am quite small.

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

“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.”

“They were saying, ‘she’s not wearing a hat’. Often we would get advised not to wear hats – you can see our eyes, so you can gain trust.”

Now she’s in line to become the town’s police chief.

“I’m absolutely delighted and feel extremely privileged to be the preferred candidate [for] the post of chief constable,” she said.

“Derbyshire constabulary is a really good force with great people working in it and I look forward to working with the PCC [Derbyshire police and crime commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa] to deliver a good level of service to our communities.”