Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Wednesday that the Office of Civil Rights had discovered that the Virginia Beach Police Department used forged forensic documents during interrogations to get cooperation or confessions from suspects.
Forged documents that looked as though they had come from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, were used during interrogations on at least five occasions between March 2016 and February 2020, Herring announced in a press release. One such document was submitted as evidence in court in at least one case.
Herring, who will be officially leaving office Saturday, said in the press release that following his investigation, the police department had stopped using forged documents in interrogations. Meanwhile, the department said it stopped doing using such documents in May 2021. The Virginia Beach Police Department said that using falsified forensic documents during interrogations, “though legal, was not in the spirit of what the community expects.”
“This was an extremely troubling and potentially unconstitutional tactic that abused the name of the Commonwealth to try to coerce confessions,” Herring said in a 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 requested a copy of what was in fact a forged document, from the Department of Forensic Science. 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 by the Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday requires the police department to ban officers from using fake documents. The agreement will remain in effect for two years, according to the attorney general’s press release.
The Office of Civil Rights is contacting individuals who were shown forged documents by police during interrogations, the release states.