In an interview with the Daily Mail, Sue Sim, the ex-chief constable of Northumbria Police, said she faced a "boys' club" of senior officers.
Mrs Sim, who retired last year, was the top officer at Northumbria Police when gunman Raoul Moat shot a policeman, his ex-girlfriend and killed her new lover.
She also gave evidence in a high-profile employment tribunal in May relating to alleged sexism in the force.
In the interview she said: "My biggest battle was with a culture that was sexist, money-grabbing and run by a "boys' club" of senior officers who thought they could do what they damn well wanted."
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After claiming that some officers made decisions about promotions while playing golf on the force's time, she said: "I don't think the public have any idea of the sort of attitudes that prevail in that force.
It was a place of rampant sexism, cover-ups and the sort of behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other workplace."
She added: "It is not a situation that's compatible with 21st-century policing."
Mrs Sim insisted "I'm not bitter at all" and said she had fears for the safety of women in the policing area.
She pointed to previous criticism of the force over its "no-criming" approach to rape allegations.
"I have a significant fear for female victims of crime, the female officers within the force, the female staff members within the force," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"If people will be sexist towards a chief constable, then what are they going to do to victims of crime, to officers and to staff within the force? That's why I'm doing this."