Virginia’s outgoing attorney general stated Wednesday that police in Virginia Beach used fabricated documents to link people’s DNA to a crime to induce them to confess or cooperate with investigations. Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement that the city’s police department has revised its policy in the aftermath of the state’s investigation. The city claimed in a separate statement that the practice was stopped in May after conducting its review, but that the strategy was lawful. Virginia Beach police protect a population of around 450,000 individuals who live along the state’s shore.
Between 2016 and 2020, officers utilized phony reports ostensibly from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science at least five times during interrogations, according to Herring’s office. The forged documents included a seal and letterhead from the state agency, according to the AG’s office. The documents included the signature of a bogus department employee in two cases, and a fabricated report was given to a court as evidence in at least one case, according to the AG’s office.
Herring’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the use of fake documents would invalidate any confessions gained as a result of their use, or have any other implications for the instances in which they were used. Herring’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the use of fake documents would invalidate any confessions gained as a result of their use, or have any other implications for the instances in which they were used.
While he appreciates the department’s decision to discontinue the practice and help with the probe, he believes it was “obviously a method that should never have been adopted.” Last year, the tactic was revealed after a prosecutor requested a certified copy of a document that police falsely claimed came from the Department of Forensic Science. After an inquiry, the AG’s Office of Civil Rights offered a “conciliation agreement” to end the practice and alter department rules. The amendments were approved by the Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday, according to Herring. They contain a police department rule prohibiting all sworn staff from utilizing phony state-issued certificates of analysis. Detectives must also acknowledge the order and commit to following it. According to the state, the provisions of the agreement will be in effect for at least two years. People who were interviewed with fake documents will be notified by the Office of Civil Rights. Herring, a Democrat, will resign as attorney general this weekend, and Republican Jason Miyares, who defeated Herring in last year’s election, will succeed him.
Virginia Beach’s police department “took swift and proactive action to correct this extremely restricted interrogation approach, which they thought, while lawful, was not in the spirit of what the community expects,” according to a statement.