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Virginia Beach PD Used Forged DNA Results to Obtain Confessions, Democrat AG Changes the ‘Potentially Unconstitutional’ Tactic Before Leaving Office

A new report reveals that one police department in Virginia has used faked DNA test results during questioning suspects to persuade them to confess. The city’s position is those tactics used by detectives to get people to cooperate were legal.

A state probe found that the Virginia Beach Police Department has used forged documents from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science that purported to show DNA testing linked suspects to crimes, a maneuver that was intended to elicit confessions. Both the state and the city did their own investigations.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring campaigns for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia, on October 23, 2021. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly / AFP) (Photo by RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images)

Attorney General Mark Herring, who put his Office of Civil Rights on the study, released a statement calling the practice “extremely troubling and potentially unconstitutional.”

The investigations revealed that between March 2016 until February 2020 forged documents that were supposed to be from the DFS were used in interrogations with the hope to get “confessions or cooperation” from suspects. On at least one occasion a doctored DFS document was submitted as evidence in court, the investigation found.

This practice was discovered in April 2021 when an assistant commonwealth’s attorney requested DFS to share a certified copy of a document in a case. The agency knew nothing about the document, verifying that it was not created by their office.

Herring said, “This was an extremely troubling and potentially unconstitutional tactic that abused the name of the Commonwealth to try to coerce confessions.”

“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,” he continued in the statement.

“While I appreciate that Virginia Beach Police put an end to this practice and cooperated with our investigation, this is clearly a tactic that should never have been used.”

Herring’s OCR worked with the VBPD to “enact policy changes” that would “protect Virginians’ rights” by putting together a “conciliation agreement,” aiming to end the practice for good.

The Virginia Beach City Council voted on the agreement on Tuesday, Jan. 11, and will keep it in effect for at least two years. The OCR now touts this effort as a move toward an important reform in the city’s policing policy.

One of the reforms will require police to “issue a Department General Order mandating that all sworn personnel immediately discontinue the use of any inauthentic certificates of analysis, DFS letterhead, or templates used to make inauthentic documents, and prohibiting personnel from making or using any inauthentic or altered certificates, letterhead, or formats of any department outside the agency.” 

The VBPD will have to go through in-service training of sworn personnel regarding interrogations using forged documents. Lastly, the department will have to investigate any allegations that claim forged documents were used in a case and within five days of the probe report to the OCR its conclusive findings.

AP notes that VBPD serves a population of about 450,000 people.

In addition to brokering the discontinuation of the police doc-forging practice in Virginia Beach, this week Herring’s office released a legal opinion overturning “58 historical discriminatory opinions concerning the unconstitutional denial to election participation, to the right to marry and to participate in society and education” between the years of 1904 and 1967.

The declaration says in part, “For too long, many of the Commonwealth’s laws unconstitutionally discriminated against Black Virginians in an attempt to keep them down, and the unfortunate reality is that attorneys general employed these racist laws with that same goal in mind when issuing opinions.” 

“While these discriminatory and racists laws are no longer on the books in Virginia, the opinions still are, which is why I am proud to overrule them today,” he continued. “We are not the Virginia we used to be, and in order to truly be Virginia that we want to be in the future we need to remove any last vestiges of these racist laws.”

A formal opinion from the Virginia Attorney General does not create laws or change those that exist. It is seen, according to his website, as an analysis of the law or legal advice.

The Democrat made these remarks as some of the final acts of his eight-year stint as attorney general. His successor, Jason Miyares, a Republican, beat him in last fall’s election and will be sworn in on Saturday, Jan. 15.

During his tenure, Herring nicknamed himself “the people’s attorney.” 

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