Councilman David Greenfield
A city lawmaker thinks it's time for the perp walk to take a hike.
The humiliating media circus that followed the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn convinced Councilman David Greenfield that the long-time staple of city crime coverage should come to an end.
"Even Mother Teresa dragged out by detectives would look guilty," said Greenfield, who drafted legislation to outlaw the traditional walk of shame for high-profile suspects.
"In our system of justice everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty," said Greenfield (D-Brooklyn).
The lawmaker compared the practice to medieval times when suspects were placed in stocks and pillory in a public square - and pelted with rotten tomatoes.
French officials blasted the long-standing practice that generated pictures and video of the cuffed and unshaven former IMF chief straddled by burly detectives.
After initially defending the treatment, Mayor Bloomberg denounced it this week as "outrageous" and a "circus." Yet Hizzoner claimed that he had "no say" in how the NYPD transports suspects.
Despite the mayor's new stance, Greenfield's legislation is likely a pipe dream.
The perp walk dates back to the 19th century, although its birth was tied more to expediency than embarrassment.
"We have been walking prisoners out of the front doors of stationhouses for 150 years in the Police Department," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said this week.
"This is how we transport people to court," he continued. "I don't think the genie's ever gonna be put back inside the bottle. That's the way it is."
Some of the walks were more involved: in 1903, the NYPD marched suspected Mafia members through the streets of Little Italy.
When Rudy Giuliani was U.S. attorney in the 1980s, he made a point of walking accused Wall Street crooks through the media gauntlet.
The list of perp walk participants is a mix of the Social Register and social deviants: David (Son of Sam) Berkowitz, mob boss John Gotti, singer Boy George, Oscar nominee Johnny Depp, former New York Jets star Mark Gastineau and rapper Tupac Shakur are just a few.
Genovese family head Vincent (The Chin) Gigante was perp-walked in his bathrobe. Actor Russell Crowe sported sunglasses for his stroll.
You ink-stained wretches
Kelly has blamed reporters for the fury over the way the accused French sex fiend was marched past a swarm of media after his May arrest.
"If they make a decision to stake out a location when someone is walked out of the front of a precinct ...it's not a decision that the Police Department makes," the commissioner said.
The NYPD has issued at least three internal orders banning the staged photo ops for high-profile suspects since 1962, police historian Mike Bosak said.
But in 2003, a U.S. appeals court found that nonstaged perp walks were constitutional.
Greenfield disagrees, contending the massive media attention has led to biased jurors.
"I honestly believe it's unconstitutional," he said. "If we banned it here we could send a message to the country."
The measure won't be formally introduced for another few weeks, as the Council is in summer recess until the end of the month.