This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Weekend learning

There has been a fire storm of opprobrium over the past tweets of Kent's Youth Police & Crime Commissioner over the weekend. I felt driven to defend and support her.

As a consequence, my twitter feed has been filled with mostly adult men pouring scorn on her and criticising me for daring to defend her appointment. Many of the tweets (and comments on the blog I have written) lurch into extreme positions and extrapolations from a relatively small number of tweets that I understand Paris made when she was a lot younger. I challenge anyone to have heard her abject apology broadcast on the television and not feel some sympathy towards this teenager. As Tom Watson tweeted this morning:

How many adults would and could have made such a sincere apology, let alone people in positions of public profile?

Even though I know this blog post will prompt yet more comment about Paris Brown, that is not really its purpose. Instead I want to talk about what I have learnt this weekend...
  • (again) that social media is never private. The clue is in the name! I hope that all people, especially young people who have flickering thumbs on their smart phone keyboards posting comments on Facebook & Twitter (etc), remember this. Your teenage past may well be open to scrutiny!
  • in the eyes of most, your tweets are you. If you use racist language (and yes 'pikey' is racist language), you will be judged to be a racist. If you use homophobic language (and yes 'fag' is homophobic language), you will be judged to be homophobic. Etc. 
  • many people (and me included sometimes) do not go back to the source / original information. People make comments on twitter based on other people's tweets. Messages are distorted and whole fictions can grow in a moment. Just a moment.
  • condemnation, bullying, judging complete strangers on the basis of minimal evidence is rampant on Twitter. I guess I always knew this but this weekend has been an object lesson in how this happens
  • there are no children on Twitter: Paris was treated like a 45 year old MP
  • Twitter has the power to make or break people. If you have just been appointed to a high profile public position, are you sure, really sure, that your social media profile will stand the scrutiny? If you are doing the appointing, how sure are you about that person's social media back story?
  • I am glad I am not young any more. Who knows what I might have tweeted at 14!
  • that I am probably (well, mostly) a soft touch, someone who will rather forgive people for what they do when I examine the whole context, and not leap to extreme positions based on minimal evidence. I would make a lousy judge (or maybe not...)
Putting to one side the rights and the wrongs of the case of Paris Brown's appointment (and time will tell if her position is tenable to not), I just hope she is OK and that the bruises all heal. She will have learnt a great deal from this weekend.

If she does now resign, I do wonder whether any other young person in Kent would now wish to put themselves forward... 

And I also wonder how this whole story has played out with young people themselves as all of the commentators are adults... Has this helped or hindered the relationship between young people and a) the media b) politics c) policing d) the adult world in general?

Finally, I would commend to you a piece by Bob Jones, the West Midlands PCC on the discussions he had with young people about whether to appoint a Youth PCC or not. It is a good read!

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