Virginia lawmaker seeks to rein in police lies during interrogation
Del. Jackie Glass’ bill would set up non-binding guidelines for law enforcement.
When law enforcement officers interrogate a suspect, they’re almost always allowed to lie about the evidence they’ve gathered.
A Virginia lawmaker is trying to set up standards to put guardrails on the process.
Del. Jackie Glass’ (D–Norfolk) proposal, which was amended as a concession to avoid opposition from law enforcement, would set up non-binding rules that would be developed by the department of criminal justice services.
Glass’ bill was prompted by five cases in Virginia Beach in which police forged forensic science reports and used them to question suspects. Former Attorney General Mark Herring ordered the department to stop the practice.
Glass’ legislation would require the Department of Criminal Justice Services to develop standards on everything from AI-generated fake evidence to false promises of leniency.
While Glass’ original bill required local law enforcement departments to match those policies, she introduced an amendment Thursday that would make them non-binding after discussions with DCJS and the Virginia Sheriff’s Association.
Glass’ bill cleared its first hurdle in a party-line subcommittee vote on Thursday.
“I suspect it's going to be a couple more years in order to really … put the law enforcement folks on record to say, ‘We agree on something,’” Glass said.
Alison Powers, policy director at the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, said on Thursday that the approach could backfire. Powers said she shared Glass’ concerns around the use of fake evidence or statements in interrogations given that the law “is very, very permissive in this area.”
But Powers said it would be a mistake to let the state’s main law enforcement agency “set the floor” on the practices without input from other stakeholders such as the public defenders she represents in the legislature. She said she was concerned that insufficiently nonbinding policies could become the basis for a future law.
Glass said her legislation wouldn’t be the last word in a fast-evolving space. She was concerned, for example, that law enforcement could use an AI-generated video to elicit a confession.
The bill “gives us a starting point to have better conversations about the things we were trying to force happen when we initially came into office,” she said.