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UK teen police commissioner steps down over tweets

April 9, 2013

LONDON (AP) — She was hired to teach local police about British youth — but it was 17-year-old Paris Brown who said she learned a lesson after her scandalous tweets about drugs, drinking and sex hit the tabloids.

The Twitter postings sparked a media furor, questions over why a teen would be named a crime official and calls for Brown’s resignation. The latter she gave Tuesday, along with an apology, a week after her appointment to the 15,000-pound ($22,800) a year role as Britain’s first youth crime commissioner.

Brown’s brief stint in the job ended after British media on Saturday flagged tweets — mostly posted before she was named to the position — that saw the teen using gay slurs and racist terms.

“Been drinking since half 1 (sic) and riding baby walkers down the hall at work oh my god i have the best job ever haha,” read one tweet. Another referenced a desire to make “hash brownies,” while separate messages saw Brown describing herself as racist when intoxicated.

After resisting calls to quit, Brown said Tuesday she was giving up the gig, which was designed as a way to build bridges between young people and police in Kent county, southern England. The teen said the recent media attention would hamper her ability to perform the job.

She also insisted that she was not racist or homophobic, but had “fallen into the trap of behaving with bravado” on social networks.

“I accept that I have made comments on social networking sites which have offended many people,” she said. “I am really sorry for any offense caused.”

Along with disgust over her tweets, the initial revelations prompted questions over why a teen was named a crime czar in the first place.

“Is this foul-mouthed, self-obsessed Twitter teen really the future of British policing?” asked the Daily Mail.

“The lesson of the Paris Brown debacle is that teenagers should not be advising the police,” the Daily Telegraph said, calling the appointment a “ridiculous stunt” that “backfired.”

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes — who named Brown to the role — called the teen’s resignation a “very, very sad day.”

When news of the offending tweets, which included references to prescription drugs and getting “oh so unattractively drunk,” broke, Barnes said she did not condone the messages, but she also urged perspective given Brown’s age.

On Tuesday, she praised Brown’s “moral courage” in turning down “the job of a lifetime” and facing up to recent events.

Barnes insisted that the interview process for the role had been “very tough,” involving a two-day process of testing skills and ideas. Brown was one of about 164 applicants for the job. Seven were shortlisted before interviewing with Barnes and with a peer group of young people.

“We used Kent Police’s vetting procedures, which do not normally involve scrutiny of social networks for this grade of post,” Barnes explained. “Hindsight is a great gift.”

Barnes said that Brown will not receive any payment because she was not due to start work until July.

The role of youth crime commissioner for Kent will be advertised again this summer, Barnes added, saying she wanted to take time before re-starting the recruitment process and that there are “lessons to learn,” especially around social media.

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