Kent Police Commissioner Ann Barnes
Police commissioner Ann Barnes says the “furore” over the Paris Brown affair is finished and she’s looking for a replacement.
There was widespread criticism of the appointment of the 17-year-old from Sheerness in April when it emerged she had sent tweets considered to be homophobic and racist.
Paris quit as Britain’s first youth crime commissioner after just six days following a media storm about the messages.
The Swale council apprentice, who is based at Swale House, Sittingbourne, announced
her decision to step down at an emotional press conference in Maidstone.
Mrs Barnes said: “It is finished. It was unfortunate, and Paris is fine. I still keep in contact with her.
Former Youth Crime Commissioner Paris Brown
“If nothing else, the furore around it has convinced me – if I wasn’t convinced before, which I was, that we do need to get into that edgy bit of connecting with young people.
“There are lots of youngsters out there, and I want them to recognise that my office is there for them.”
She said there were “very few sceptics” about the role now, and recruitment for the £15,000-a-year job would start in the autumn.
Mrs Barnes paid her first official visit to Sheppey aboard the “second-hand camper van”, dubbed Ann Force One, last Friday.
She went to Sheerness charities the Island Partnership and Restoration Youth, and also chatted to people at Castle Connections and members of Queenborough Harbour Trust before meeting Minster Parish Council.
She said two issues came up everywhere she went: the “high regard” police community support officers and neighbourhood teams were held in; and demand for more visible community policing.
She added: “That is very difficult when the government is taking money away in such high amounts.”
She warned that 200 police officers could join the 500 who had already lost their jobs following another round of public sector spending cuts over the next two years.
To try to counter this, she has set up a petition on her website at www.annbarnes.co.uk
“I wake up every morning with a smile on my face,” she said. “And I feel so honoured to be Kent’s first police crime commissioner. I do feel I’m making a difference.
“I’m that link between local people and the police.”