NY councilman calls for "perp walk" ban after DSK

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 08, 2011 4:43 PM

By Grant McCool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City councilman, troubled by images of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and other criminal suspects being paraded by law enforcement officials, is proposing legislation to ban the "perp walk."

Councilman David Greenfield said on Friday the bill would make it illegal for any city employee, including those of the New York Police Department (NYPD), to assist in the public showing of anyone arrested and charged with a crime.

"My law is not directed at the media. It is directed at the police," said Greenfield, who represents part of the borough of Brooklyn. "If we change the law then the NYPD will abide by it."

A spokesman for the NYPD was not immediately available for comment.

Defense lawyers have long complained that the "perp walk" -- "perp" is short for perpetrator -- tarnishes the name of their clients in a justice system that presumes a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

The practice again drew criticism in May when Strauss-Kahn, then managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a leading French presidential contender, was paraded unshaven and in handcuffs after his arrest on sexual assault charges. Strauss-Kahn has denied the charges.

Greenfield said he wanted to introduce the legislation in the City Council as early as August.

"If we can do it in our city, then I hope it will be taken up by others across the country and at the federal level as well," said Greenfield, who was elected in March 2010.

He said the "perp walk" was "an unfair form of punishment" that made those presumed innocent "look guilty and bias the potential jury pool."

He said he hoped to have the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did not complain about Strauss-Kahn's "perp walk" at the time but backtracked after questions about the accuser came to light, calling it "outrageous."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly this week blamed photographers and cameraman for the outrage.

"We have been walking prisoners out of the front doors of station houses for 150 years in this police department," Kelly was quoted as saying in Thursday's New York Post newspaper.

"Making a decision to stake out a location, where someone is brought out of a police station, that is a decision you make, not a decision the police department makes," Kelly was quoted as telling reporters.

(Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Paul Simao)