Senior police officers used force accommodation to carry on "illicit relations" to the point that the flats were jokingly nicknamed "love pads", an employment tribunal has heard.
Rumours about an alleged affair between ex-Northumbria Police chief constable Mike Craik and Assistant Chief Constable Carolyn Peacock, which was said to have led him to be punched by her husband Jim at a barbecue, spread so far that local solicitors had heard the story, the hearing was told.
Glossy posters of Mr Craik displayed in Northumbria Police stations were defaced with marker pen, showing him with a "blacked over" eye, retired Pc Bryn Jones said in a statement.
Mr Jones said it was long suspected senior officers used accommodation behind the headquarters to conduct illicit relations, to the point they were called "love pads".
He gave evidence to the employment tribunal at North Shields, North Tyneside, in support of Denise Aubrey, the force's director of legal services who was sacked for gross misconduct in 2014.
She was accused of gossiping about the alleged affair, after having given confidential advice to the police chief about libel.
But retired chief constable Sue Sim has told the tribunal she was wrong to want rid of Ms Aubrey, 54, having now seen the evidence.
Assistant Chief Constable Greg Vant and Mr Craik's secretary Juliet Bains were also said to have had an affair, the tribunal has been told.
Mr Jones, who was a Police Federation representative, said in his statement: "I can say categorically that as far as I am concerned the relationships were far from confidential and it would be inconceivable that rank and file officers within the Respondent force were not aware of them.
"I would also suggest that matters were very much in the public domain being the subject of gossip by local criminal solicitors."
He said "many" officers were summoned to briefings in late June or early July 2007 by their shift inspectors where they were told the barbecue incident at Mr Craik's house had not occurred.
"In fact rumours were already rife about this as I understand a number of force posters of Mr Craik had been damaged with one of his eyes blacked over with a marker pen - referring to the fact he had been involved in a fight," he said.
Staff were warned anyone caught doing this would be treated as "having committed criminal damage", Mr Jones said.
Officers were warned not to look up details of the alleged incident on the police log as they might be held to account by the professional standards department, and "any search was in any event pointless as the incident did not take place and there was no log of it", he said.
Mr Jones said it was thought Mr Craik heard rumours his secretary was having an affair with Mr Vant.
In his statement, he said: "There was also a suggestion Mr Craik was furious about this. Apparently not only was it known that he was himself fond of Ms Bains but also that Mr Vant, when confronted about the matter had lied to him and had apparently taken advantage of her with his rank.
"Again, and I know this was widely known by many of my colleagues because it was discussed, many were particularly angered at what was seen as a member of senior management 'getting away with it'."
Soon after, Mr Vant joined Merseyside Police, Mr Jones said. He said to his knowledge there was no question of Mr Vant being disciplined.
"This would contrast sharply with my experiences as a Federation representative having seen far worse consequences for more junior officers that had behaved in a not disimilar way."
He added: "Another factor that no doubt caused considerable ill feeling towards the rank and file staff was the use of police premises to carry on his exploits.
"There were accommodation facilities at Ponteland behind the Respondent's headquarters and it was long suspected that this was frequently used by those in senior management to conduct illicit relations - Mr Vant being among them.
"This became such a joke that they were nicknamed the 'love pads'."
Under cross-examination by Angus Moon QC for the police, Mr Jones said retired colleagues still laughed about the alleged affair involving their former chief constable, asking each other: "Can you remember about the incident that never happened?"
He said the gossip about senior officers was a source of "great humour" for staff.
He told the tribunal: "Officers on the ground are under a lot of pressure with discipline hanging over them.
"When something like this occurs it becomes quite rife with gossip.
"It is quite uplifting for people on the ground floor, sad as it may be."
The hearing continues.