`They tried to ruin my reputation'

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The Independent Online
CYDENA FLEMING took only eight years to rise through the ranks from constable to inspector due to what her promotion board described as her "exceptional level of performance".

But when she was placed in charge of Gainsborough police station she found herself the subject of deep resentment.

Anonymous telephone calls were made to her superiors claiming that she was having affairs with her colleagues. Social services were even informed that Insp Fleming was neglecting her two children.

She tried to use Lincolnshire police's grievance procedure to register her distress at what she later described as "dripping poison" but was rebuffed.

Insp Fleming wrote in her pocket book: "I strongly believe there is a positive attempt to discredit me and ruin my reputation." According to her barrister Robin Allen QC, her colleagues were "determined to be rid of her".

He said: "One flirted with her, another was obsessed. She received abuse from other sergeants and a great deal of animosity. It takes quite a remarkable person to survive the animosity and ostracism she faced."

Insp Fleming, 40, lodged a claim for sex discrimination and placed a voice-activated tape recorder in her locker room to gather evidence of the harassment. But when the recorder was discovered, her superiors decided that she was not the victim but the culprit. She was suspended on the grounds of "oppressive behaviour".

Insp Fleming was also accused of custody offenses, making false entries in her pocket books and even breaking into her husband's flat. In February this year, an industrial tribunal ruled that she had been subjected to a vendetta by male colleagues.

She has been paid compensation and offered reinstatement but has taken up a post with Humberside police, which was called in to conduct a Police Complaints Authority investigation into her treatment and promptly offered her a job.

The difficulties faced by Insp Fleming are illustrative of recent warnings in Policing Today magazine by senior women officers who have spoken out against the discrimination suffered by females who try to rise through the ranks. Elizabeth Neville, Chief Constable of Wiltshire, said there remained a widespread fear that pregnancy would undermine a woman's promotion chances.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Judy Davison, of the City of London Police, was especially concerned by the lack of women working in the traffic or armed response sections. "Family responsibilities, encouragement, personal choice and childcare may all be inhibiting factors," she said.