Sunday, 7 April 2013

Kent's Youth Police Commissioner; a question of judgement

Kent's 'Independent' Police & Crime Commissioner Anne Barnes,
with her new Youth Commissioner, Paris Brown
Today's Mail of Sunday carries a story about Kent's new Youth Police Commissioner, Paris Brown, and (to use the MoS headline) Is this foul-mouthed, self-obsessed Twitter teen really the future of British policing? Youth crime tsar's sex and drug rants.

My views on Mrs Barnes are well known, and hardly surprising given I was Campaign Manager for the Conservative who she defeated last November. But what do I make of this story?

Firstly, I was in the audience at the public meeting, I think at Canterbury, when Mrs Barnes first announced that she would appoint a Youth Commissioner on an annual salary of £15,000. I believe she also said the salary would come from her own £85,000, and I would be interested to know if this is still the case. At the time of the announcement I remember thinking it was a dangerous gimmick and one which would come back to haunt her. If there was a case for a youth commissioner to build trust, then surely there was also need for a BME Commissioner, a Motorists Commissioner, an Older Person's Commissioner and so on.

Having now read the article, I don't actually blame Paris Brown. She's a teenager doing, sadly, what the overwhelming majority of teenagers now do; drink, rant and be generally obnoxious. I am not defending it, it's simply a sad reflection on much of today's society and culture. I imagine there are very few people who, if a journalist on a mission trawled through their social media history, would not find a handful of quotes to make that person look mad, bad or dangerous.

The problem here is Ann Barnes and the way she operates. Apparently Miss Brown was interviewed by Kent's Assistant Chief Constable and finally another interview with Mrs Barnes herself. Let's be clear; this policy was Ann Barnes' policy, not Kent Police. No other candidate in Kent (or anywhere else in the UK as far as I know) felt the need to make such an appointment. Mrs Barnes has on her payroll her two campaign managers (Lib Dem activist Peter Carroll and his business partner Howard Cox) each are being paid £6,000 per month as consultants at tax-payer's expense.

Mr Cox's LinkedIn entry describes his campaign contribution as follows:

"Campaign Manager and on-line communications for the Ann Barnes Independent Campaign for Kent's Police & Crime Commissioner....

The question the Mail on Sunday should be asking is, did either of Mrs Barnes' highly paid consultants, one with a specialism in online communications, run basic due-diligence on Paris Brown before she was appointed? If they did, were her Twitter and Facebook comments known beforehand and she was appointed anyway?  If no due diligence was run, why is Mrs Barnes paying £12,000 per month to consultants who allowed her to make such an obvious mistake?

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