August 18, 2010 / 4:59 AM / 7 years ago

Ex-detective hopes stand vs. corruption inspires others

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Former Australian detective Deborah Locke's life became a living nightmare after she blew the cover on police corruption but the steely 46-year-old says it was worthwhile if people remember her and follow her lead.

It's been 14 years since Locke was discharged "medically unfit" from the police force in the state of New South Wales and more than 15 years since she went to authorities to give details of a "one-in-all-in" culture of bribery among police colleagues.

But Locke said she was determined to ensure that her stand against corruption would not be forgotten and would help give others the strength to do the right thing.

This year she has published the second edition of her book "Watching the Detectives" and was also portrayed in a new series of the popular Australian TV crime drama "Underbelly" set in 1989 in Sydney's red light district, Kings Cross.

"I don't regret what I did. I can sleep at night," Locke told Reuters in a recent interview.

Locke joined the NSW police force with high hopes in 1984, but quickly realized it was hard to slot into such a male dominated culture.

After leaving uniform policing to become a plain clothes detectives, she found she could not accept the "one-in all-in" culture over taking bribes.

Hard-drinking detectives regularly mingled with criminals and corruption was seen by some as part of daily policing to keep strip clubs owners, pimps, and drug lords under control.

In 1995 Locke blew the whistle on corruption, with her evidence led to a Royal Commission that ultimately produced a wide range of reforms within the police force.

But it also led to death threats against Locke who spiraled out of control on alcohol and depression. In 1996 she was discharged from the service "medically unfit".

Her critics say she was angry and jealous of her male colleagues but she denies that, saying the male officers were threatened by the rise of women in the police force.

"You had all these men that had never worked with women before who had been around for 20 or 30 years and they were pretty angry that the culture of the police stations was changing," said Locke.

But she admits that she did not foresee how hard her life would become after she went public.

"I was looking over my shoulder all the time. The scary thing was I was scared of the police," said Locke.

"At the time I didn't believe they could be so vicious and angry but, then again, they had a lot of money and their careers at stake. Because I was an honest cop my career ended."

Locke hopes she has made the way easier for women in the police force.

"It's not as out of control as it was then," she said. "But since the latest "Underbelly" series started, about 15 current police women have contacted me so there are instances where women are still having a hard time."

Locke now works for a women's refuge movement providing care and support for women and children escaping domestic violence.

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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