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."
Greenfield said the "perp walk" was "an unfair form of punishment" that made those presumed innocent "look guilty and bias the potential jury pool."
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.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne wrote in an email response to Greenfield's proposal that "my only comment to the legislator's claim that the bill isn't aimed at the media is this: 'Really?'"
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Wednesday that New York was not like a mid-size city with police station, court and jail all in the same building.
"We have been walking prisoners out of the front doors of station houses for 150 years" and arrests are "structured so that the prisoner is observed by the desk officer as they leave, Kelly said.
"It's up to you folks as to whether or not you want to take pictures of someone who has been arrested."
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 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."