Friday, January 20, 2012

Perp Walk

As I watch television news these days, I'm a little jealous.
Almost every crime story has a photo of a suspect.
The photos are mugshots.
Law enforcement agencies routinely release them these days. Back in my day they did not.
Of course in my day, reporters walked to work and home in ten foot snow drifts, uphill, both ways.
We prayed for footage of suspects. We wanted the , "Perp Walk."
There's nothing fair about a perp walk.  It's part public humiliation and part public relations. But it made my job easier. In a perp walk, law enforcement walks a suspect publicly so the media can get the much sought after picture. The media is tipped in advance.
Toward the end of my television career, I took my son KC (Kevin Christopher) to work with me. I was scheduled to do an interview with NASCAR Driver Bill Elliott. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was my son's favorite driver.
In what was more rule than exception I got pulled off that story in Dunmore and instead was assigned to cover the arrest of an arson suspect in Lewisburg. Forget that it was a 90-mile drive. I had to disappoint my boy.
But he went along for the ride and witnessed a little known secret of the news business that we still laugh about.
The preliminary arraignment of the suspect was held at a Magistrate's Office in a strip mall. While we were set up to get pictures of the alleged arsonist, the trip from police cruiser to the front door was less than ten feet.
That was not enough time to get the pictures needed to do a full story. If the walk out of the Magistrate's office to police cruiser was the same few seconds, we faced a serious problem in trying to tell the story.
So here's the secret:
That's right when the police are inside, reporters or photographers routinely locked the doors of police cruisers with the sole purpose of getting the extra time for the pictures we needed.
When the Lewisburg officers led the arson suspect out of Court and back into their cruiser, they couldn't get in. For some reason the cruiser doors were locked. They were so unsuspecting, they had to scramble to find the keys to unlock the door. All that time, the cameras rolled.
Now reporters and photographers never let on. But a young boy couldn't help but smile and maybe even laugh.
His innocence almost proved our guilt.
What's the penalty for felonious mopery with intent to gawk?

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