What is a Police Welfare Check? - Definition & Laws

Lesson Transcript
Ryan Futo

Ryan has a master of education and a BA in Criminal Justice.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Have you called the police because you could not get a hold of someone? The police have an obligation to complete a welfare check. But, what happens if no one answers the door? In this lesson, we'll learn about the police options during a welfare check. Updated: 08/02/2020

The Welfare Check

Many of us have gone through the heartache of not being able to get a hold of a family member or friend. As a last resort, you may have even called the police. The police have a legal obligation to respond to this call of service, commonly known as a welfare check.

There are certain laws that the police need to follow. There are also certain conditions the police can use, such as exigent circumstances and the totality of the situation, to make a warrantless entry into a residence.

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  • 0:01 The Welfare Check
  • 0:31 The Call
  • 1:09 I Have Not Seen My Neighbor
  • 2:02 When Will the Police Enter?
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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The Call

Imagine you live an hour away from your mom. You talk to her every day between 4 and 5 o'clock. It is now 8:30, and your mom has not called you back. You call the police and ask for someone to go to her house and check on your mom; the dispatcher replies with, ''Sure, we can do a welfare check.''

You ask yourself, ''What is a welfare check?'' A welfare check occurs when the police respond to a requested area to check on the safety or well-being of a person. Officers will then report back with their findings. You are relieved to learn that your mom answered the door. She simply misplaced her phone and took a nap.

I Have Not Seen My Neighbor

Next, think about an elderly neighbor you know as Mr. Martin. You routinely see Mr. Martin working in his yard in the summer, and he's always friendly. You are not best friends with him, but recently you have not seen him coming or going, and you know his health is declining. You once again call the police to complete a welfare check.

The police respond and knock on his door. There's no answer. You see officers walking around the house peering through windows and eventually begin to walk back to their cruisers. You walk over and tell the officers what your concerns are and why you made the call. They may ask if you have Mr. Martin's or a family member's phone number or when was the last time you saw him. You tell the officers that you do not have any phone numbers, and again you know that his health is declining. The officers tell you that there is nothing more they can do right now. You promptly respond with, ''Why can't you force entry?''

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Police Welfare Checks:

Study Prompt:

Create a set of flashcards that provides the definitions of each of the bold terms given in the lesson (welfare check, warrant, exigent circumstances, totality of the circumstances).

Example: A warrant is a court order that allows the police to enter an area.

Essay Prompt:

Write an essay of at least three to four paragraphs that first explains the grounds on which a warrant is granted. Then, describe how the police can forcibly enter a home without a warrant during a welfare check.

Example: The police can use exigent or urgent circumstances to forcibly enter a house on a welfare check if they look through the windows and see someone laying on the floor.

Scenario Prompt:

In approximately three to four paragraphs, write about a scenario in which it could be necessary to call the police and ask for a welfare check on a person. If you have actually done this before in real life, feel free to write about that experience. If not, or if you simply do not want to share, that is ok; simply make up a scenario.

Example: Your best friend has been struggling with suicidal thoughts. You usually talk to each other at least twice a day, but you have not been able to get a hold of him in 24 hours.

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