What Is A Police Welfare Check?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Most people think of the police as patrolling the streets looking for wrongdoers or responding to calls. What many people don't realize is that the police in their community are also available to conduct welfare checks. This essential law enforcement function is an important tool for building safe communities.

What is a Welfare Check?

Friends, family and neighbors are important social contacts. They may regularly check in with loved ones to see how they're doing. When a loved one fails to respond, the police can be called in to conduct a welfare check. For instance, if a nephew has been trying to reach his elderly aunt for the last several days, but she does not answer the phone or respond to a knock at the door, the nephew may call the police to perform a welfare check at his aunt's house.

How to Ask for a Welfare Check

The first step is to get in contact with local law enforcement authorities. You may call 911 if you have reason to believe that there may be an emergency situation in progress. However, you can also contact the police through a non-emergency phone number. If you live in the local area where the welfare check will be conducted, you may be permitted to accompany the authorities. It is also possible to request a welfare check in another jurisdiction. For instance, if a relative living in another state has not responded to your attempts to contact them for some time, you may want to ask for a welfare check at their residence. It is important to proceed with caution. You'll want to be reasonably certain that your relative's behavior is out of character and have reason to believe that something is truly amiss before calling the police.

Legal Considerations

No court order is required for the police to conduct a welfare check. Essentially, as long as they have reasonable grounds to believe that an inhabitant in a residence in endangered, they can legally enter the premises. They typically knock on the door and await a response before announcing their law enforcement affiliation. If they still receive no response, they may enter the property. This is particularly useful when someone inside the house is unconscious or otherwise unable to respond. The ability to enter the property without permission means that emergency aid can be rendered. In some cases, this is a life saving intervention.

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