Perp walk, short for perpetrator walk is media jargon for a camera shot of the handcuffed suspect being led by police officers during an arrest or arraignment.

Seems simple enough, doesn't it? Well, apparently police departments were staging them solely for press benefit. In Lauro v. Charles, John Lauro Jr. was arrested after being caught rifling through an apartment he was watching by a wireless camera. The camera had been installed by the apartment's owner because the superintendent told him that Lauro was suspected of theft in the building. Nowhere did the tape show anything being taken, nor was anything found missing. The tape was sold to a station and the police were called anyhow. The police department's information office told the arresting detective that he should take Lauro for a "perp walk", so Lauro was taken around the block and then escorted back in with a camera crew filming. Lauro then sued for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The trial court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that it was unreasonable, in that the "perp walk" was unrelated to law enforcement duties and was a purposeless invasion of privacy. While the Court felt that the press and the public have an interest in accurate reporting on law enforcement, the public was not being shown an actual event, but rather the staged re-creation thereof which does not serve an interest in accurate reporting.

Of course, the media was upset. They complained that they needed these pictures, and that the public had a right to know about criminals. However, it is notable that the judicial system in the United States, at least in theory, operates on the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Some media critics also claim that most perp walk filmings involve minority suspects, both to allow the media to manipulate the public image of crime and because not everyone will accede to the media request, particularly well-paid defense lawyers.

Moral: You may think the media is liberal, but that doesn't make them any nicer to you.

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