It’s a familiar sight if you follow the news in Central Florida: Someone accused of a crime is led in handcuffs through a gantlet of reporters and cameras into a patrol vehicle waiting to drive the suspect to the county jail, says the Orlando Sentinel. Defense lawyers say these events are — at best — a way for police to show off a successful arrest at the expense of the defendant’s presumption of innocence. At worst, critics say, they’re an attempt to entice suspects to say something on camera they’ll later regret at trial.
Though the practice is commonly called a “perp walk,” officials of the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office bristle at the term. Both agencies regularly invite news organizations, including the Sentinel, to attend prisoner transfers in high-profile cases. “We do not condone and do not participate in the deliberate posing or parading of any arrestee,” said sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Angelo Nieves. Said police spokesman Sgt. Jim Young: “We do not do perp walks.” Said David Fussell, an Orlando defense attorney: “It’s a way for law enforcement to circumvent the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights. … To me, it’s an abuse of process.”