Virginia Cops Used Fake DNA Documents to Coerce Confessions

Cops in Virginia Beach have been accused of forging documents showing that suspects’ DNA had been tied to a crime.

Jan 13 2022, 5:08pm

Cops in Virginia Beach have been accused of forging documents that tied suspects' DNA to a crime in an effort to coerce confessions or cooperation from people under interrogation.

The “fake certificates of analysis” purporting to be from a state forensic agency were used on at least five occasions, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s Office of Civil Rights revealed Wednesday. The certificates were often emblazoned with a seal, letterhead, or contact information, and two included the signature of a fake Virginia Department of Forensic Science employee. One forged document was even presented in court, though that case wasn’t elaborated upon.

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Although the controversial tactic of using deception in interrogation rooms is often legal—and fairly common—Virginia’s attorney general called the police department’s particular tactic “potentially unconstitutional.” The Virginia Beach Police Department, which agreed to stop using the practice, alternatively emphasized the technique was legal in a statement to the Washington Post.

Even so, the police department acknowledged to the Washington Post that it “was not in the spirit of what the community expects.” (The Virginia Beach Police Department did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.)

The practice, Herring said, “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,” he added.

Police deception has come under scrutiny elsewhere, too. Lawmakers in some states have recently moved to ban cops from lying to kids suspected of a crime, since children are particularly susceptible to false confessions; some of the most famous examples of cops lying to suspects have occurred among youth, including in the case of the Central Park Five.

And officials are considering whether it’s fair for the police to lie to adults, too, since other countries have outright banned the practice. In September, for example, a Pennsylvania state representative proposed legislation that would prohibit deceptive tactics.

“No innocent suspect should be pressured into confessing to a crime they didn’t commit,” Rep. Angel Cruz, the Democrat who introduced the bill, said in a statement at the time.

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Tagged:

Virginia, DNA, Confessions, lying, forged documents

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