Police boss 'sorry' for TV show
Embattled police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes apologised today for appearing in a controversial fly-on-the-wall TV documentary.
But she defiantly insisted she would carry on in the £85,000-a-year job despite accusations from officers in Kent that the Channel 4 programme made their force a "laughing stock".
Pressure on Mrs Barnes intensified yesterday after a youth crime tsar she appointed was temporarily suspended over allegations of a relationship with a married former councillor.
She apologised to rank-and-file officers about the documentary at a meeting of Kent and Medway police and crime panel today, saying she was "deeply sorry" and admitting that "with hindsight" it was the wrong decision to feature in it.
But she added: "I will continue to do my work as commissioner."
Mrs Barnes was urged to ''consider her position'' after Kerry Boyd, the youth crime commissioner she appointed just three months ago, was temporarily suspended following allegations she had a close friendship with married former councillor Robert Burgess.
The 20-year-old former London 2012 torchbearer was given the role in March after her predecessor Paris Brown, then 17, resigned over offensive comments she made on Twitter.
In Meet The Commissioner, which aired last week, Mrs Barnes, who travels around in a van she dubs ''Ann Force 1'', struggled to explain what her role involved and was filmed having difficulty explaining an approach to policing priorities called ''the onion''.
She also failed to write her title correctly on a whiteboard, was filmed painting her ''flaky'' nails and compared the force to a tin of paint that she wanted to ''prise'' open.
In a statement at the opening of the meeting, Mrs Barnes said: "Before I say anything else I would like to offer an apology to the hard-working men and women of Kent Police.
"I know some of them are upset about the documentary. It was never my intention to do that.
"The only reason I agreed to do the documentary was to help people better understand the role of police and crime commissioner. It is very complex and there are lots of challenges.
"Unfortunately I don't think the programme did that and I'm deeply sorry."
She stressed she had made the "final decision" about whether to appear in the programme and did so "with the best of intentions".
Mrs Barnes said: "With the benefit of hindsight it wasn't the right decision and I'm truly sorry.
"Personal comments I have to take on the chin but it's the reputation comments [about the force] that concern me most. It was never, ever my intention to upset the work of the force."
She said the first time she and her staff saw the programme was the day before the production period ended and though they raised concerns "it was too late to change".
During the meeting she came under attack from some members of the panel for presiding over "train crashes" and repeated misjudgements during her tenure.
She combined contrition with defiance under the tough questioning. Asked if she had considered her position, she said: "I've looked long and hard at the work that I do here in the county.
"I am a fit person to be police and crime commissioner. I work incredibly hard - you know I do. I do know my job. I will continue to do my job as commissioner but I will review my approach to engagements."
Regarding the allegations surrounding Miss Boyd, she said: "I'm quite sure that the day before the panel meeting...that the chairman has explained to you why it is not possible for anybody to make any comments about that."
The session, which lasted nearly two hours, was at times bruising for Mrs Barnes, who insisted she was "not a lame duck" and had "intellectual rigour".
Panel chairman Mike Hill opened the meeting by saying the documentary attracted some "highly critical" comment and described it as "a PR disaster".
Giving his conclusions, he said it was "clearly a mistake" to make the programme and also called on the commissioner to "change her style".
He said: "Some of the behaviours that we saw on the programme cannot perpetuate."
He said the show caused "damage" to Mrs Barnes personally and to the office of police commissioner both in Kent and nationally.
Some members of the panel also issued scathing assessments of Mrs Barnes's performance.
Councillor Malcolm Dearden said: "We've had three train crashes coming through. We've had the appointment of the first youth commissioner, we've got this programme and we've got something coming down the road."
He said of the controversy surrounding the documentary: "It's just a perception that destroys in part the integrity of the office."
Other members likened the documentary to a "comedy sketch" and said it showed "gaffe after gaffe after gaffe" over four months of filming.
But others defended Mrs Barnes, criticising the editing of the programme and saying she had been a victim of attempts to "slur, harrass and bully" her.