The UK's first youth police and crime commissioner, Paris Brown, has resigned from her post following criticism of messages she posted on Twitter. The 17-year-old, who was appointed last week, said she was "quitting in the interests of the young people of Kent"... (BBC)
As regular readers will know, I spent some time over the weekend (see here and here) defending her position and asking for the people of Kent and beyond to give her some time to apologise, learn from the reactions she recieved, and get back to her new job of building links between young people and the police & crime services of the county. Whilst some were supportive of my stance, many others were critical.
Yesterday, I asked a 19 year old person I know well, what she thought of the whole affair. Her view was that Paris should not have made those tweets in the first place and was unwise not to have taken them down on appointment. She also commented that given the furore, that this had left her permanently damaged in the public eye and that she would have to resign.
She was right. And I knew then that if a 19 year old young woman was saying this, she was going to be right.
I stand by what I said over the weekend: with a little more forgiveness and contextual understanding, Paris could probably have continued in her post. But given the harsh world that we now live in, I was being optimistic. Perhaps I am naïve in that I think most people should be given second chances and an opportunity to learn and develop. My approach to most wrongs is restorative not punitive.
But what is done is done and I sincerely hope that Paris can move on from this and find some other niche for talents. I don't doubt that she will be thinking far more carefully in future not only about what she tweets but also her beliefs, words and how she approaches people in real life. And I hope this experience helps her to blossom and grow, and that she does not end up being cowed.
As Paris herself has said, let this experience act as a warning to young people on the perils of social media. It should also be a warning to all employers too...
Of course, I cannot but help in observing double standards at play here.
I understand the Weymouth councillor who said on his facebook account "Terminally slow (and bad) service from the bone idle bitches at Costa Dorchester today, they all need a good beating.” is still a councillor. And there are other examples of where people in power had said things far worse than what Paris tweeted but they have been allowed to get away with it because they have friends in the right places... And I would draw a comparison to publishing scare stories about MMR vaccinations, the likely consequences of which we now see being played out.
In sum, be careful what you publish to the world! (I know I am)
UPDATE: Here is a comment from a colleague that the system would not let her post: so I am posting it for her:
I have every sympathy for Paris and wish her well. You make good points as usual Jon - but a few further thoughts. There are lessons to be learnt in all this - not least a recruitment process that needs to reflect modern society. Social media screening is surely a must - not only to find things that might come back to bite but also to identify those who do not engage and therefore do not realise its importance today.
There are questions around whether you have to be a teenager to understand youth (and the wider implications of that assumption to other issues of diversity). Perhaps also a consideration of the title of Youth Commissioner. A lower profile Adviser might have allowed Paris to find her feet more easily. This then begs the question around any title including Commissioner - is that/should it now belong only to the elected representative. Deputy or Assistants beware. After all, Paris is not the only PCC associated victim of Twitter.
I do question the wisdom of this all now becoming a matter of investigation by Kent Police. Allegedly it is, so no doubt in time we will hear more - probably involving other agencies - CPS springs to mind. I only hope that the Kent PCC resists any urge to influence this in any way. If this became the first example of a PCC interfering in operational policing, then that really would be a story worthy of note.