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Web 'Perp Walk' Accused of Trampling Suspects' Rights

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2004; Page C05

The images are grainy. The captions are sparse. And the glum-looking people in each snapshot are invariably cast in the same unflattering light and straight-ahead pose.

But ever since the Frederick Police Department began posting mug shots of suspected prostitutes and their customers on its Web site late last month, this modern-day "perp walk" has become one of the hottest draws in the city.

Hits on the city's Web site have gone up about 50 percent since the first prostitution-related arrest was posted Aug. 26.

But the policy also has drawn hits of another kind.

Dino E. Flores Jr., a lawyer speaking for the Frederick County Criminal Defense Bar, said that besides piling some unnecessary humiliation on the suspects, the Web site could interfere with the rights of those arrested.

Even the county's top law-enforcement officer, State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, has expressed misgivings.

"Our overwhelming concern is a person's ability to get a fair trial in Frederick County. Their crimes have not even been reviewed by the prosecuting authority," Flores said. "I think the main reason to do this is get a little publicity for the city. It's about somebody looking good."

That somebody is Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty, he said.

Dougherty, a Democrat who promised the Web postings in her State of the City address this year, has praised the move as empowering neighborhoods to fight back against a crime that gets scant attention from the courts but has a huge effect on quality of life in the city.

She also said there is not much difference from newspapers' publishing of roundups of recent arrests.

"I think it's a good neighborhood tool," Dougherty said in an interview. "It came because residents complained about it."

Dougherty also denied that the intent was to humiliate anyone.

"That's not it at all," she said. "If that's a byproduct, it's a byproduct."

Despite growth in Frederick during the past 10 years, Market Square in downtown Frederick is hardly Times Square.

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