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Home   Kent   News   Article

Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes appears in 'car crash' Channel 4 documentary Meet The Commissioner

30 May 2014
by Paul Francis

Kent's police commissioner Ann Barnes was facing calls to quit today ... with a light aircraft circling police HQ pulling a banner demanding she steps down.

It follows the screening of Meet The Commissioner on Channel 4  last night, which was condemned for "damaging the reputation" of the county's police force.

The plane was spotted over Maidstone at noon today, the latest in a series of protests over the show. The banner read: "#Ann Barnes out. Resign."

The #AnnBarnesout aerial banner over Maidstone. Picture Simon Burchett

The #AnnBarnesout aerial banner over Maidstone. Picture: Simon Burchett

The plane took off from Rochester Airport at 11.45am am and returned shortly before 12.20pm.
 
It was created by Air Ads Banners UK, the same company behind a controversial banner that flew over Old Trafford calling for David Moyes to be sacked. 
 
Simon Moores spoke to KentOnline while he was rolling up the banner on the runway.
 
He said: "We sent it up to go round and round Kent Police's headquarters and chose Rochester airport because it's the closest to Maidstone.
 
"There's not a lot more to say, I think the banner says it all really.  
 
"I would suspect that's the last you'll see of it, unless someone else wants to pay to put it up. 
 
Banner calling for Ann Barnes to quit is towed by an aircraft above Maidstone. Picture Martin Apps

Banner calling for Ann Barnes to quit is towed by an aircraft above Maidstone. Picture: Martin Apps

 
"Unfortunately I can't reveal who set it off." 

A KentOnline poll has revealed the overwhelming majority of people of Kent want the commissioner to resign. 

Of more than 400 votes cast, a whopping 88% said they thought it was time for Mrs Barnes to go.

Ann Barnes in the converted motorhome she uses to travel to events across Kent. Picture Channel 4

Ann Barnes in the converted motorhome she uses to travel to events across Kent. Picture: Channel 4

And there was a vitriolic response to the show on social media, with the commissioner being described as naive, laughable and 'out of her depth.'

Many compared her to David Brent, the buffoon in Ricky Gervais's The Office mockumentary.

Even the chairman of the Kent Police Federation Ian Pointon struggled to find good points in the show, describing it as "something of a disaster", "an horrendous hour of television" and potentially damaging to the force's reputation.

But the ex-teacher today defended her decision to appear on the show, claiming it hadn't damaged the force's reputation.

In a lengthy statement posted on her website, Ann Barnes said she was disappointed and frustrated by elements of the programme but does not indicate any regret that she took part.

She also rebuts the charge that the programme has damaged the force's reputation, saying it was never her intention to draw adverse publicity to the excellent work being carried out by officers.

She said: "The only reason I agreed to do the documentary was to help people to better understand the job of a Police and Crime Commissioner.

"The decision to let a film crew examine the work of the office for four months was not one I took lightly.

"I hoped it would give an insight into what is being done to help achieve the best possible police service for Kent.

"The film does go some way to addressing the complexities of the job and illustrates some of the challenges involved.

Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes eventually spells her job title correctly. Picture Channel 4

Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes eventually spells her job title correctly. Picture: Channel 4

"But I am disappointed that there is too much emphasis on me as an individual and not enough on the work of the office.

"I know that much of what the office has achieved was filmed and I am frustrated that these scenes did not make it through to the final version."

She said it was never her intention to draw adverse publicity to the "excellent work being carried out by officers and staff in often very difficult circumstances".

Kent should be proud of its police force, she added, and of the work it does.

Some viewers have defended Mrs Barnes, claiming she had been the victim of a Channel 4 'stitch-up.'

But most agreed the hour-long programme didn't paint her in a good light - including the move the Police and Crime Commissioner was seen painting her 'flaky' nails.

She also compared the police force to a tin of paint, declaring she wanted to 'prise the lid' off it.

The £85k-a-year commissioner also tried to explain a system of policing priorities called "the onion".

In a clip filmed in her office at Maidstone, Mrs Barnes is asked: "What is a police commissioner?"

After a pause, she says: "Oh dear... what is a police commissioner? It is not a police commissioner, it is a police and crime commissioner." 

Staring at a flipchart, Ann Barnes struggles to explain the onion theory. Picture Channel 4

Staring at a flipchart, Ann Barnes struggles to explain the "onion" theory. Picture: Channel 4

In one section, she discusses criticism of her converted motorhome used to travel to events across Kent.

Of the £15,000 costs, she says: "I could have had a top of the range Mercedes but it is not my image."

In the next shot, Mrs Barnes is seen arriving for work in a soft-top Mercedes car.

 

At one point Mrs Barnes was seen struggling to say what her job involves.

She turns to a whiteboard to write down the job title, but is seen getting it wrong before saying "let's try that again".

She then goes on to say: "It's a strange job... there is no job description at all... there are certain responsibilities you have to do but no actual job description."

Should Ann Barnes resign from the role of Police and Crime Commissioner?

She talks about something called "the onion" depicted in circles on a whiteboard - but again struggles to explain what it is.

Asked what it represents, she says the rings represent different policing priorities, but cannot explain what they are.

She said: "I have no idea... I did not expect to talk about the onion, as we call it. I do not know really... everything is important."

Mrs Barnes also discusses difficult budgets cuts with decision makers in the force, some of whom fall asleep.

She is later seen fighting to save officers' jobs in the face of budget cuts - even bringing her dogs into the office during some of the discussions.

The commissioner stresses the importance of visible policing on several occasions during the programme - and is seen having a confusing conversation about cultures and sub-cultures within the force.

 

Ian Pointon, who represents rank-and-file officers in the force as chairman of the Kent Police Federation, today criticised Mrs Barnes's decision to appear on the show, claiming it showed "breath-taking naivety".

He said: "It was a bit of a disaster. If you looked at social media it was alight with comment last night.

"Sadly it's turned Kent Police into something of a laughing stock, which I accept was never Mrs Barnes's intention."

He said she had engaged in a venture which was ill-advised.

Mr Pointon even said the Police and Crime Commissioner had been advised against appearing in the documentary by staff members.

But, he added "we have ended up with the programme we have ended up with."

He advised those who watched the programme to understand the difference between the commissioner's role and that of the Chief Constable, who was a police officer with 30 years' experience.

But Mr Pointon stopped short of demanding her resignation, saying it wasn't a matter for the federation to decide what her future should be.

 He accused Mrs Barnes of "breath-taking naivety" and dubbed the programme "an horrendous hour of television."

But he praised her for fighting for extra resources for Kent Police.

Asked what effect the programme would have on the rank-and-file officer, he suggested there might be some leg-pulling over coming days, with some even asked if they "know their onions". 

One of Mrs Barnes' former aides says the commissioner was poorly advised about taking part in the documentary.

Howard Cox said: "It was a very sad programme. I feel very sorry for Ann. There was a lot of creative editing - she is better than how she was conveyed. She was poorly advised. I would never have let her take part."

 

 


 
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