Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Wednesday that his Office of Civil Rights discovered the Virginia Beach Police Department used forged forensic documents during interrogations to get cooperation or confessions from people.
Forged documents, typically purporting to link a suspect’s DNA to a crime and made to look like they came from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, were used during interrogations on at least five occasions between March 2016 and February 2020, Herring said in press release. A forged document was submitted as evidence in court at least once, NPR reported. (RELATED: Murder Suspect Tries To Grab Gun During Interrogation, Video Shows)
Herring, who leaves office Saturday, said in the press release that following his investigation, the police department stopped using forged documents in interrogations. Meanwhile, the department said it stopped doing so in May 2021, according to The Associated Press. The Virginia Beach Police Department told The Washington Post that using falsified forensic documents during interrogations, “though legal, was not in the spirit of what the community expects.”
The Virginia Beach Police Department forged DNA evidence to coerce confessions & compliance from people in its custody.
This problematic practice was only exposed because @AGMarkHerring‘s office chose to investigate the department.
How many others are getting away with this!? https://t.co/zNtqwvSFY3
— ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) January 13, 2022
“This was an extremely troubling and potentially unconstitutional tactic that abused the name of the Commonwealth to try to coerce confessions,” Herring said in press release. “It also abused the good name and reputation of the Commonwealth’s hard-working forensic scientists and professionals who work hard to provide accurate, solid evidence in support of our law enforcement agencies.”
The Office of Civil Rights started its investigation after a prosecutor asked the Department of Forensic Science for a copy of what was actually a document forged by police, The AP reported. The Department of Forensic Science “never created or knew about” the document, according to the attorney general’s press release.
A “conciliation agreement” proposed by the Office of Civil Rights and agreed to Tuesday by the Virginia Beach City Council requires the department to mandate officers stop using fake documents, The AP reported. The agreement will be in effect for two years, according to the attorney general’s press release.
The Office of Civil Rights is informing affected individuals who were shown forged documents by police during interrogations, the release states.