Britain’s first youth police commissioner has apologised before even starting the job for “inappropriate language and views” she posted on her Twitter account.
Paris Brown, 17, wrote violent, racist and anti-gay comments on her feed before she became the first youth PCC for Kent to represent young people’s views on policing, a role she is expected to take up in the summer after finishing an apprenticeship.
The offensive tweets, which included references to taking drugs, were posted by the teenager between the ages of 14 and 16, and have now been deleted, although she insisted they had been misinterpreted.
There were calls for Miss Brown, from Sheerness, Kent, to resign from the £15,000-a-year post she was appointed to last week, but Kent Police and local Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes defended her and said she would learn quickly from the experience and media attention it had brought.
A senior politician was reported to be calling for Miss Brown to be removed from the position immediately and a Kent councillor responded to the scandal by Twitter to question the wisdom of allowing an inexperienced teenager to become involved in politics.
In a statement issued hours after details of her tweeting history were made public, Miss Brown said: “I deeply apologise for any offence caused by my use of inappropriate language and for any inference of inappropriate views.
“I am not homophobic, racist or violent and am against the taking of drugs.
“If I’m guilty of anything it’s showing off and wildly exaggerating on Twitter, and I am very ashamed of myself, but I can’t imagine that I’m the only teenager to have done this.
“Just as one example, the line about ‘Hash Brownies’ is a reference to a Scooby Doo film.
“I have a genuine interest in working with young people, as demonstrated by my current work as an apprentice for a local authority helping teenagers in a local community.”
The references will be particularly embarrassing because police work hard to control drugs, violence and hate crime.
Mrs Barnes said in a statement she did not condone the nature of the tweets but asked for some perspective owing to Miss Brown’s age.
“I absolutely do not condone the content and language of Paris’s tweets,” she said.
“I suspect that many young people go through a phase during which they make silly, often offensive comments and show off on Facebook and Twitter.
“I think that if everyone’s future was determined by what they wrote on social networking sites between the ages of 14 and 16 we’d live in a very odd world.
“Thousands of people have already seen and heard this young lady articulate her ideas and been impressed by her maturity and her commitment during challenging interviews on the national and local media before this story broke.
“She has said herself that young people grow up very quickly these days and it’s often difficult for them. This is a very difficult time for her personally, but she will learn quickly from this and rapidly mature into the confident young person we are already seeing.”
Mrs Barnes, 67, also defended her own decision to appoint a youth commissioner, which was a manifesto pledge during her election campaign and £5,000 of the teenager’s salary comes from her own.
“The idea of a youth commissioner was born out of my long experience in the world of policing, as a teacher and as a parent.
“There is a growing gap between younger people and the police and other agencies of law enforcement.
“Young people are too often demonised by certain elements in the Press and are often criticised mercilessly.
“This new post is a practical step aimed at engaging with them. It is not a ‘gimmick’,” she said.
The decision has attracted national publicity and Miss Brown appeared on national breakfast television last week to talk about the job and the benefits she believed would come from young people being able to discuss their views with someone from the same peer group.