Kent: Commissioner Criticised After Documentary

Kent's police and crime commissioner (PCC) has defended herself amid sharp criticism following a "car crash'' Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary on her.

Ann Barnes said it was not her intention to attract bad publicity to the county's police officers and staff.

She reacted as viewers of last night's Meet The Police Commissioner programme said ex-teacher Mrs Barnes was an "embarrassment'' to Kent Police.

In the hour-long show, Mrs Barnes, who travels around in a van she dubs "Ann Force 1'', struggled to explain what her £85,000-a-year role involved.

The documentary showed her having difficulty explaining an approach to policing priorities called "the onion'' and bringing her dogs into the office.

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.

On Twitter, viewers compared her to Ricky Gervais's character David Brent - and one said the show was "depressingly hilarious, hilariously depressing''.

One tweeted: "What an embarrassment Ann Barnes, PCC for Kent Police,is. Anybody watching this car crash TV? I'm not sure if this is a joke or not.''

Another said: "Ann Barnes was like Kent's very own David Brent. A total embarrassment and waste of taxpayers' money.''

Mrs Barnes said in a statement: "I want to be absolutely clear that in agreeing to the film being made, it was never my intention to draw adverse publicity to the excellent work being carried out by officers and staff in often very difficult circumstances.''

Also in the programme, Mrs Barnes said driving a Mercedes was not her "image'' - and she was then filmed in the next shot arriving at work in a Mercedes.

Mrs Barnes, who was elected in 2012, said she was concerned by claims that her appearance had damaged the reputation of Kent Police.

And she said she was disappointed that the programme focused too much on her, rather than the work of her office.

In a statement on her website, she said: "Many people have given their views on the programme and have speculated about my motivation for doing it.

"The only reason I agreed to do the documentary was to help people to better understand the job of a police and crime commissioner.

"The decision to let a film crew examine the work of the office for four months was not one I took lightly.

"I hoped it would give an insight into what is being done to help achieve the best possible police service for Kent.

"The film does go some way to addressing the complexities of the job and illustrates some of the challenges involved.

"But I am disappointed that there is too much emphasis on me as an individual and not enough on the work of the office.

"I know that much of what the office has achieved was filmed and I am frustrated that these scenes did not make it through to the final version.''

She listed achievements, including addressing concerns about crime recording, developing a new victims' centre and investment in body-worn cameras and digital devices.

Ian Pointon, chairman of the Kent Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, told BBC Radio Kent: ``I think it was probably a disaster from start to finish, in fairness.

"It was an ill-advised concept and from within Kent Police I know that Mrs Barnes was advised not to do it. It was never going to end well.

"I think, sadly, it has turned Kent Police by association into something of a laughing stock. Social media was alight with comments.''

Mr Pointon said he recognised a positive from the show in Mrs Barnes's attempts to secure more funding for the police service.

Further indignity was piled on Mrs Barnes today when a light aircraft circled above Kent Police HQ in Maidstone with a banner urging her to quit.

The 75ft-long banner was trailed by main pilot Simon Moores, also owner of company Air Ads banner firm, for 30 minutes and read: "#AnnBarnesOut Resign.''

Mr Moores, 57, said: "We set off from Rochester airport, which is the nearest one to the police headquarters, and flew for 30 minutes, around 15 minutes of which was above Kent Police.''

He refused to disclose who had ordered the banner to be flown.

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