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 a police welfare check. 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.
Examples of Situations That Require a Police Welfare Check
- You normally see your neighbor, but it has been an extended period of time since you have. You call him or her and knock at the front door, but there is no answer.
- Your grandpa calls you at least once a week, but you haven’t heard from him. When you try to call him, he doesn’t answer either. He has a heart condition, so you begin to worry.
- You know of a suicidal friend who lives alone. She sent you a text message that causes concern, and you stopped hearing from her after that.
Regardless of the situation, it is important that you are certain a loved one is in danger before you request for a police welfare check.
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. Either way, you will need to get in touch with the local police department in the person’s town where the welfare check will be conducted.
If you live in that same area, 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.
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.
What Happens After a Police Welfare Check?
At the time of the call, most people don’t think about what’s to follow after the authorities check on the individual. If the police go to the location and find that the person is in good health – and it was likely a miscommunication why you were unable to get ahold of him or her – they will notify you to let you know. However, if the police find the person injured, sick, or already deceased, they will call for medical assistance immediately, as well as contact you to come to the scene (they will stay at the home until you arrive). And lastly, if the individual is found dead and there was any foul play involved, a criminal investigation will follow.
And while there are countless reasons why someone may request a police welfare check, the most common reason is to check on an elderly person who lives alone.
To learn more about what to do after a loved one has passed, here’s a look at how to obtain medical records of a deceased relative.