RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill from a Virginia Democrat that would have banned police from forging documents used during interrogations was rejected along party lines.
Del. Jackie Glass (D-Norfolk), who won a special election the night before the 2022 General Assembly session started, told the Republican-controlled House of Delegates’ Courts subcommittee Friday her legislation was in response to an investigation into the Virginia Beach Police Department.
According to a report from the attorney general’s office days before Mark Herring left office, Virginia Beach police used forged documents to get confessions or cooperation from people during at least five criminal interrogations from 2016 to 2020.
“So this bill particularly is necessary to protect the integrity of our convictions,” Glass said when introducing her bill to the panel. “The scope of this bill is extremely narrow. It just speaks to the replicating of official documents.”
An investigation by Herring’s Office of Civil Rights found the city’s police department used fake documents that authorities claimed were from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to secure convictions, confessions or cooperation from people.
The probe also revealed that the fraudulent forensic reports were generally used to show that a person’s DNA was found in connection with a crime under investigation. On at least one occasion, a forged report was presented as evidence in court, according to Herring’s office.
Virginia Beach Police said in a statement that chief Paul Neudigate opened an internal investigation and directed the department to end “any further uses of inauthentic replica documents” on May 1, 2021, two days after being alerted by the Virginia Department of Forensic Services and the Secretary of Public Safety of the claims.
The department added that while the practice was legal, it “was not in the spirit of what the community expects of their Police Department.”
Prosecutors spoke in support and in opposition of the bill during Friday’s meeting, with Norfolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney acknowledging law enforcement is allowed to lie to suspects but the practice of forging documents should be prohibited.
The five Republicans and three Democrats on the panel went back and forth on the bill before voting along party lines to lay it on the table, effectively killing it for the 2022 legislative session.