A senior police officer said “sexist and homophobic” abuse sparked by her hairstyle made her decide to leave Twitter.
In August this year, Deputy chief constable Rachel Swann made several media appearances while leading the evacuation of Whaley Bridge.
However, rather than be interested in her vital work, some viewers took to Twitter to actively target DCC Swann in a barrage of offensive tweets.
Ms Swann told BBC Radio Derby that the reaction reflected more extensive problems with social media and she was shocked her “mere existence could cause such a depth of feeling”.
During the severe and potentially life-threatening incident, 1,500 people were evacuated from Whaley Bridge when a dam wall at the nearby Toddbrook Reservoir was damaged earlier this year.
DCC Swann, the senior officer in the operation, saw comments about her on social media after she appeared in front of TV cameras at a local press conference.
DCC Swann told BBC Radio Derby:
“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.”
DCC Swann continued:
“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.”
One comment said: “Is that what a senior police officer looks likely [sic] these days??”
“My personal experience of the trolling and negative comments on social media are reflective of those that some people receive every day.
“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.
“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.”
DCC Swann told BBC Radio Derby that she hoped her appearance in the national media showed the growing diversity in the police force.
She has returned to Twitter.
“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.