Virginia Beach police used forged DNA reports during interrogations, official says

Virginia Beach police used forged DNA reports to force confessions or cooperation during interrogations, according to a statement from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s (D) office.

The police used forged documents from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS) at least five times from March 2016 to February 2020. A false report was presented in court as evidence at least once.

The documents, which were sealed with DFS information and twice signed by a fictitious DFS employee, claimed that suspects’ DNA were connected to crimes in order to coax them to confess.

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The DFS discovered the police’s tactics when an assistant commonwealth’s attorney requested a certified copy of one of the false documents from the department. 

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

The attorney general's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) proposed a conciliation agreement to the Virginia Beach City Council after investigating the law enforcement practices. The City Council agreed to the OCR’s changes Tuesday.

The agreement included a requirement that the Virginia Beach Police Department discontinue its use of false documents and that detective bureau personnel sign a commitment to abide by the order.

The OCR notified those who were interrogated using forged documents and is requiring the department to release any further evidence of false reports to the OCR in a timely manner.