A row has broken out at Scotland Yard over a senior woman detective who was promoted following the intervention of the force's Commissioner, Sir John Stevens.
Up to 10 male officers, rejected for the same rank, have complained at the rise of Detective Superintendent Jill McTigue and an internal inquiry has been set up into the case.
Det Supt McTigue, 53, once headed an all-male murder squad and is among a small number of senior female detectives. Sir John has been trying encourage more women to join the Metropolitan Police and for female officers to rise faster through the ranks.
But Det Supt McTigue's elevation last month to the Serious and Organised Crime group, dealing with kidnaps, gangland killings, armed robbery and gun smuggling, has provoked a backlash among some male colleagues. A group of inspectors who had also applied for promotion but were turned down have made internal complaints after it emerged that Det Supt McTigue only got her new job after the direct intervention of her boss.
The Australian-born officer spoke to Sir John at an all-women Met conference last month entitled Dancing On The Glass Ceiling: 1,000 Met Women Speak Out for a Change.
A detective chief inspector at the time, she told him she had been knocked back for the fast-track selection process despite being praised by her immediate boss as an "exceptional candidate". Sir John is said to have promised immediate action and her name was put forward. She passed the promotion board for the new post. But some male colleagues also praised as "exceptional candidates" were angered. Nineteen officers, including Det Supt McTigue, had earlier lost an appeal against rejection for fast-track selection. In total 196 officers applied for promotion, with 78 succeeding.
Since news spread of the woman officer's promotion, disgruntled male detectives contacted their staff association to complain. There is even talk of some claiming sex discrimination at a future employment tribunal, although no legal actions have yet been started.
A source close to the officers said: "There is a feeling there is one rule for all of us one day and another for the Commissioner another day. It is not right you should get special treatment just because you bump into a senior officer in the corridor. Everyone should get the same opportunities."
The Met yesterday revealed that an internal inquiry was being carried out into the affair.
A spokeswoman said: "We understand a number of colleagues originally in the same position and who had not made a direct appeal to the Commissioner have expressed concern that an exception was made in this officer's case and we are currently looking into whether these concerns are justified, and if they are, how they can be best addressed."
Sir John has repeatedly bemoaned the lack of women joining the Met - there are 5,600 female officers, 18 per cent of the force. The number of women detectives is also low, 6 per cent of the Specialist Crime Group, which includes anti-terrorist and firearms squad.
Recently there have been two significant promotions - Sharon Kerr as the first female head of the Flying Squad and Janet Williams as the first female head of Special Branch.
Det Supt McTigue has previously spoken about the difficulties in breaking into the male-dominated world of police. She became head of the arts and antiques squad as well as being in charge of a murder squad.
She said on taking over as the head of a 40-strong, all-male murder squad that they made a point of not inviting her to the pub after work. She said: "They would say to each other, 'see you in half an hour'. You didn't need to be a detective to work out they were going to the pub. I had to collar some of them about withholding information, and had a couple of stand-up rows."
Det Supt McTigue was not available for comment yesterday.
POLICEWOMEN AND THE GLASS CEILING
Appointed Britain's first female assistant chief constable in 1983. When shewas passed over for promotion for the ninth time, she decided it was because of sex discrimination. In 1990 she began a court battle with Merseyside Police, who responded by tapping her phones. In 1992 she agreed a termination payment of £142,000.
One of Britain's most senior black women officers, Chief Inspector Mulligan is suing Greater Manchester Police for discrimination and for unfairness over flexible working practices, claiming she was passed over for promotion many times during a 22-year career.The case goes before an employment tribunal in October.
As acting superintendent inNorth Yorkshire in 1988, Ms Smith was driven to the brink of suicide when senior officers spread rumours that she was a lesbian after the break-up of her marriage.She retired because of stress in 1998. In February 1999 a tribunal ruled she had been sexually discriminated against on three occasions.