Phoenix PD crime lab assists with COVID-19 tests on those who've died

The Phoenix Police Department is adding COVID-19 testing to its list of services, and it's a first of its kind in the nation because tests are being used on those who may have died from the virus.

“Thanks to the city council in collaboration with the Phoenix Police Department, this type of testing is now available. This testing is not for the general public. It's only for those who are suspected to have passed from the virus," explained Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams on Nov. 2.

As COVID-19 cases rise once again in Arizona and around the country, Williams says she wants the department to step up and assist in the fight against COVID-19.

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Tests began in October and since then, the department's crime lab performed tests on about 25 samples from the coroner's office.

“The county and the state will still test from those who are still alive," explained Jody Wolf, crime lab administrator, adding, “As medical examiners process their subjects, then samples can be collected if they believe that COVID-19 has been involved as a result of that death and then we provide that testing."

The department's expertise and specialized equipment will provide some relief to the medical examiner's office and will lead to faster results, Wolf explained.

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"The PCR test stands for 'preliminary chain reaction.' It’s a DNA technique that allows us to identify components of the virus. The medical examiner community, they do not have DNA testing laboratories. Crime labs have DNA testing laboratories, so we’re able to combine the need with the resources to provide an answer to the community," Wolf said.

Williams says the department still processing criminal cases like normal and this is having no effect on their normal day-to-day operations.”