The “perp walk”

Today’s Times takes a glimpse at an old journalism tradition known as “the perp walk.” It is a ritual in which the police take a suspect (whom they routinely refer to as a “perpetrator” or “perp”) for a short walk, whether it’s really necessary or not. The idea is to put the perp on display for the media, especially the cameras. The perp walk plays absolutely no role in the administration of justice, but it represents a perfect convergence of the interests of the police and the media. That may be why it has survived court orders aimed at eliminating it.

As I see it, the perp walk is a result of the transparency built into our criminal justice system,which, on the whole, has served us pretty well. I’m not sure I would swap it for the French system, for example, which is mentioned in the Times.

What do you think?

1 Comment

Filed under Journalism, journalism history

One response to “The “perp walk”

  1. I don’t think the perp walk is fair because if a defendant is not guilty of an alleged crime then the media produced fictitious information that is perceived as news. It is the media’s job to produce fast news, but factual news as well. That said, I think the practice is unfair to the public who should be able to trust the information produced by news sources. Sure, I am all for the justice system being transparent but I think pictures of suspects should not be printed if there are innocent–but knowing that could take some time…oh boy, this is complicated!


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