NORTH Yorkshire Police has revealed it has two transsexual officers working for the force.

Chief Constable David Kenworthy was joined by transsexual Police Sergeant Nicola Lamb, formerly Sgt Christopher Lamb, at a press conference yesterday, only days after colleagues were told she would be coming to work as a woman.

It was also revealed that another transsexual officer, who has not been named, works for the force, having made the gender transition five years ago before transferring to North Yorkshire Police.

Sgt Lamb, 49, dressed in a green shirt and a grey skirt, smiled throughout the press conference but declined to answer questions.

Kathy Anderson, the force's diversity advisor, said Sgt Lamb, who has been with the force for 26 years and is based at headquarters at Newby Wiske, near Northallerton, has gender dysphoria, the medical condition which leads to transsexualism. To varying degrees, the condition affects one in 10,000 men in the country and one in 40,000 women. She said Essex was the only other force in the country with serving transsexual officers - one a constable and the other a special constable.

Sgt Lamb, who is divorced, returned to work as a woman on Monday to start the transition period following a two-week break. Her colleagues were informed before she returned.

Men switching gender identity have to live as women for 12 months before a sex change operation can be considered.

Ms Anderson said: "It has been an extremely brave move for her and I feel so proud of her. She feels tremendously much happier as a woman than she did as a man."

Sgt Lamb previously wore uniform, but she will wear civilian clothes for the first month of her transition before switching to female uniform. Mr Kenworthy said: "We have made tremendous changes in the way that we view diversity within the force. We celebrate diversity in North Yorkshire Police. We are happy to employ people who will be good police officers and support staff."

Referring to allegations of bizarre initiations and sexual harassment at Harrogate police station in the early 1990s, Mr Kenworthy said the force had "suffered enormous criticism" and that the announcement demonstrated how much attitudes had changed for the better.

The force had been rocked by claims of bullying and a "canteen culture", which culminated in former Harrogate detective constable Libby Ashurst being paid a six-figure sum to settle an industrial tribunal out of court in 1996.

Sgt Lamb works on the Airwave project, which is setting up the force's new radio system.

She has also worked for Deputy Chief Constable Peter Walker, who described her as "a highly competent officer".

North Yorkshire police took the decision to hold the news conference because it is believed a Sunday newspaper was set to expose Sgt Lamb.

Updated: 09:57 Saturday, July 21, 2001