In an ongoing Whistleblowing case in Bristol, three female police-dog handlers have taken Avon and Somerset Police to tribunal with allegations that they were harassed by ‘sexist male colleagues’ following their decision to speak out about witnessing animal cruelty to police-dogs. This includes an alleged incident in which fellow police officer Paul Nesbit-Bell threw a dog against a wall.
The three women have made 95 claims against Avon and Somerset Police between them. Mandy Gornicki, 51, has said that she and her colleagues were ‘ostracised’ by their peers in the police force, and were verbally abused by male peers behind their backs on several occasions. A fourth female officer is also alleged to have been harassed but has declined to participate in any legal action.
Ms Gornicki’s fellow claimants Ann-Marie Williams and Erica Martins are due to express their views as the six week tribunal continues.
Hostile behaviour within the force
Ms Gornicki, who has eighteen years of policing experience, has claimed that it was the women’s act of whistleblowing that started a generally hostile attitude towards them, which involved a series of petty instances intended to make their working life difficult.
This includes an occasion in which Ms Gorkicki was deliberately given an inadequate dog kennel for a puppy she was training even though her male peers received brand new ones. Ms Gornicki says that instances like these were designed to cause her to fail in her job as a dog handler.
She also believes that she was deliberately given a dog with behavioural problems in order to hinder the speed of her overall performance and make her look incompetent in the process. The goal of such treatment was to ultimately dishearten her to the point of leaving the force.
Ms Gornicki also believes there is sufficient evidence to prove that she and her fellow whistleblowers were intentionally separated during training courses in order to prevent further instances of whistleblowing between them.
When cross examined during her tribunal hearing, Ms Gornicki faced accusations that she is exaggerating her testimony through amplified examples of treatment that was be no means exclusive to her.
Sexist Attitudes of male officers
Ms Gornicki also claims that sexist comments were slyly directed towards the three women. This includes an alleged occasion when chief inspector Paul Mogg suggested women were not able to match the skill of male officers during riot situations. This comment was likely directed at Ms Gornicki personally because she and Inspector Mogg had worked alongside each other during a riot in the recent past.
Sheold the tribunal that the sexism experienced by the three women also centred around hostility to animals in response to their whistleblowing as such cruelty would not have happened in the presence of male dog handlers. Ms Gornicki claims this was done in an attempt to antagonise the claimants and intimate them into leaving the force.
These allegations come during an already controversial period for Avon and Somerset Police, as chief constable, Nick Gargan, is currently awaiting a misconduct hearing on claims he made ‘inappropriate advances’ towards junior female officers.