General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Have you ever called the police to make a wellness check on someone?

Asked by Jeruba (51926points) May 25th, 2020

If so, what were the circumstances that prompted you?

And how did it work out?

Did you regret doing it, or do you believe you did the right thing? Would you do it again?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

45 Answers

josie's avatar

You cannot, under any circumstance, be serious

rockfan's avatar


Why do you think @Jeruba is joking? People who are worried about friends who are possibly suicidal and may not have the means to contact their friend might only have that option to make sure everything is ok.

rockfan's avatar

Yes, I did a wellness check for a close friend a couple months ago. The last time we had talked was through text and he mentioned he was having suicidal thoughts the previous month.

After that, he deleted his Facebook and turned off his phone. His family weren’t picking up my calls, so I called his coworkers, and they mentioned that he had been fired a week ago. So I was really worried.

I called in the wellness check and the police told me that his parents had admitted him to the hospital to be psychologically evaluated.

His Dad was really upset I had called in a wellness check. But my friend told me a few days later that his dad is usually grumpy and irritated when people try help in sensitive situations involving their family. Thankfully, my friend was extremely touched that I had called the wellness check, and that I really cared about him. So I don’t regret it.

chyna's avatar

@josie I can think of many situations where that could and should happen. College age kids that haven’t been heard from, elderly people that don’t live near enough to be checked on, family members that normally are in touch regularly but you haven’t heard from.

filmfann's avatar

My daughter’s boyfriend was screaming at her while I was on the phone with her. He had a history of violence and drug abuse. My wife and I were worried about our grandson seeing all this.
My wife went over to make sure everything was okay. She called me, and I could hear in the background that things were worse. Because of my wife’s struggling with communication, I was worried, so yes, I called for a well check. I knew the police would scare him.
My daughter was upset after, and yelled at me. I didn’t care.

gorillapaws's avatar

I have an elderly neighbor who lives alone and has a heart condition. His car horn was blaring at 1AM and he wasn’t responding when fellow neighbors and I knocked on his door. I called the cops to make sure he was ok and that he wasn’t trying to somehow signal for help with his car’s horn on a key fob or something.

Police came and were able to wake him up thankfully with some very firm knocks to his bedroom window (there was a point where it was considered kicking his door in). He was ok and everyone went back to bed. I’d do the same again and I hope my neighbors would do the same for me.

janbb's avatar

My son was talking on the phone to a friend in high school and the friend expressed suicidal thoughts. My son called the police who went over to check on him. The friend was mad at him but we felt he had done the right thing.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’m with @josie. Calling the police is the absolute last thing I would do in just about any situation, especially if I wanted everyone involved to stay alive.

Brian1946's avatar

I would as a last resort.

My wife and I live in separate houses, because we each had one when we first met.

If I was anxious about her wellness, and I hadn’t communicated with her for more than a week, I’d call her niece.

If that didn’t yield any answers, I’d drive to her house and do my own wellness check. If I didn’t see any sign that she was okay, then I’d probably refer it to the police as a missing person report.

My neighbor across the street is currently doing okay.
However, I’ve been involved with her and the police on 3 different occasions:

1. I was in my living room one night, and I heard a rapid succession of loud bangs coming from across the street, near the front of her house. Although I thought the noise was probably caused by firecrackers, I called 911 and reported, “Shots fired….”.

2. Her daughter came over to my house, and I gave her some bottlebrush flowers. After that, I watched her leave my house through my front yard. I turned away and stopped watching her, when she was about halfway across the street.
Later on at night, I heard the daughter’s mother frantically knocking on my front door. She hadn’t seen her daughter since that morning, and thought she was lost.
I told the mom that I hadn’t seen her since about 3:30 PM, but I did see her walk back toward their home, but not all the way.
I said, “Let’s go back to your house and ask your mother if she got home okay”.
The grandmom said her granddaughter had safely returned, but didn’t know where she currently was.
I said, “Call the police. If a missing person is at least 18 (21?), then you have to wait 24 hours before reporting it. But since she’s only 9, then they should take the report”.

3. There was some violence at her house between her and her DIL. She and her daughter came over to my house and asked if they could call the PD from there, because the DIL had ripped their phone off the wall. I emphatically said they could make the call and they did.
As I recall, they stayed at my house until the police arrived, and they interviewed them in my living room.

Jeruba's avatar

I’m not joking, not at all.

If you say you wouldn’t call, I’m wondering just how you would handle it if, say, you believed your son or daughter had taken a dangerously high and potentially lethal dose of an intoxicating drug, living alone in an apartment on the opposite side of the country, where you don’t know how to reach a single neighbor or friend. You’d just wait for a postcard, right?

How about an elderly friend who’s in a high-risk population and who hasn’t been heard from in a month or more, despite messages?

How about somebody who suddenly becomes incoherent while talking to you on the phone, and you hear a crashing noise and then nothing?

Why would it be better to drive over there, ring the bell and get no answer, knock, call out, look around and see no sign of activity, and then just leave?

I can think of worse things than interrupting someone’s evening with a knock on the door from an officer asking if they’re all right.

janbb's avatar

^^Unless, they’re black perhaps.

jca2's avatar

I haven’t.

There was someone from work who, about two years ago, didn’t go to work on Friday and didn’t show up on Monday. Meanwhile, over the weekend, his sister went to his house and saw the light on and his car in the driveway. She decided maybe he was on vacation or something, so let’s get in touch with the job on Monday and ask if they’ve seen him, because he wasn’t responding to phone or text. So Monday came, the sister called the job, the job said he hadn’t been there Friday or today and hasn’t called in, which is not like him. So they called the police to do a wellness check and found him in the house, dead, apparently since Thursday night. He was in his early 50’s.

The other coworkers said that on Thursday he was saying he didn’t feel well but didn’t want to go to the hospital. He went home to rest, was on his computer, and the last communication a friend had with him was about 11 pm Thursday.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I’ve done it often as part of my job working in a public mental health authority. I see many elderly homeless people by my office, and I call the local homeless outreach to check on them. Sometimes I call the police instead if its late in the day who come and try to get the person services.

An elderly man wandered into my apartment one day, and I called the police. They came and were able to determine where he belonged. A year later, I called Adult Protective Services who came and investigated the man’s apartment and ascertained he was unable to care for himself and lacked capacity and took him to a care home. I’m lucky that Hawaii has many alternatives to calling the police. Also, our police rarely shoot people who aren’t shooting at them first.

Our police department now has access to a Mental Health Emergency Worker 24 hours a day who can walk them through an encounter with someone exhibiting signs of mental illness.

SavoirFaire's avatar

The police aren’t the only people who can stop by to see how someone is doing, and probably aren’t even the best equipped to do so. Landlords, neighbors, friends, family members, and EMTs all seem like people who can do a better job than a police officer. And if you’re really so worried, you can show up yourself. You’re pretty much guaranteed not to shoot them, and are just as capable of calling an ambulance as a police officer is in case of a medical emergency.

Jeruba's avatar

My examples weren’t hypothetical, by the way.

In the first case, parents on the West Coast, son on the East Coast, history of depression and drug use, extremely disturbing phone call, late at night, no local contacts.

In the third, my brother’s ex (in Florida) saved the life of my mother (in Massachusetts) by making exactly that call to the police in my mother’s town.

In the second, well, that’s what prompted this question. I have no knowledge of a medical emergency; it’s just a concern after a silent lapse of time.

How many people really know how to reach their friends’ landlords or neighbors? I don’t know them. My elderly single friend has a cousin in Petaluma and another in New Jersey whose first names I know; that’s it for family. I’m trying to reach someone in a group I know she belongs to. She’s forgetful and may not realize she hasn’t been answering messages. This is no time to go showing up at an old lady’s door wearing a mask, banging and shouting. Somebody else is bound to call the cops, and then what? Over to @luigirovatti’s question about jail vs. a mental hospital, that’s what.

SavoirFaire's avatar

My concern isn’t hypothetical, by the way.

My brother was shot during a wellness check. His girlfriend was killed. The person who called it in mentioned the possibility of drugs, so they sent a SWAT team.

My cousin was killed during a wellness check. He thought someone was breaking in, and was shot for being armed with a baseball bat. It was 2:00 in the morning, and the officers didn’t announce themselves as police.

A college friend of mine was paralyzed during a wellness check. The police assumed that he had broken in and was harming the person they were called to check in on. Except, of course, he was the person they were supposed to check in on. They just didn’t think a black man could afford that nice of a house. He sued the police but died under “mysterious circumstances” before the case went anywhere.

When you call in a wellness check, every detail you mention is interpreted by the person who takes your call. They determine whether or not to actually send the officers out on a wellness check or to give them different instructions instead. They may be told that they are investigating a drug deal, or a kidnapping, or a break-in. It doesn’t matter what you ask for. It matters what the person who takes your call thinks about what you said.

It’s nice that you’ve had positive encounters with the police. I’ve never had a single one in my life. And I’m not willing to endanger people I care about by calling the cops on them. Instead, I keep up to date on who their emergency contacts are and who they would like me to contact if I am concerned about their wellbeing. I go out of my way to make sure I do know how to get in touch with their friends, family, neighbors, landlords, or whoever else they actually want checking in on them. I think we’d all be better off if we were able to rely more on our community and less on cops, and we don’t get there by just throwing up our hands and saying “well, who else am I going to call?”

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. Member of staff who failed to attend for work and was not responding to telephone calls. They were found collapsed at home by the police.

No I don’t regret doing it. (Mind you in the UK the police don’t deploy a small paramilitary task force to deal with noise complaints etc).

SmashTheState's avatar

DO NOT call police for wellness checks. Ever. For ANY reason, but particularly if there are mental health issues involved. Not unless you want to kill someone.

This is someone I used to know:

His nickname was Saffy. He was going through a bout of depression and someone called in a “wellness” check on him. His record had a “mental illness” mark on it, so when police arrived and let themselves in, they had their weapons drawn. Saffy, who had headphones on and hadn’t heard them knock, was cutting himself a slice of pot brownie in an attempt at self-medication and had a knife in his hand. He turned when the cops unexpectedly entered, and they opened fire. They shot 11 times, hitting saffy seven times and themselves twice.

Saffy’s spine was instantly shattered and he was made quadriplegic. While lying in a hospital bed, the police came and told him if he tried to sue them, they’d arrest him for attempted murder on police officers and he’d spend whatever time he had left in a prison hospital getting sub-standard care.

He died two years later of pneumonia (the usual fate of quadriplegics confined to bed), shortly after explaining all the details of what happened to me. After he was safely dead and police couldn’t go after him, his parents sued and received $7 million. Saffy is just dead.

Don’t call police. Almost no situation is ever made better by the arrival of deadly force in the hands of angry, stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, authoritarian stormtroopers.

canidmajor's avatar

OK, @SavoirFaire, all your scary stories don’t address what to do if you don’t have a convenient list of contacts? How would you deal with @Jeruba’s example: ”How about somebody who suddenly becomes incoherent while talking to you on the phone, and you hear a crashing noise and then nothing?“ if it’s not someone you know well enough to have all that pertinent information? Just let them lie there (or whatever?)

We may have a very limited amount of information about a casual acquaintance, or someone we may be doing casual business with.

cookieman's avatar

Calling 911 will also send an ambulance or the fire department, depending on the situation, not just the police.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@canidmajor I have already answered that question. The police aren’t the only emergency responders available. If you think someone is having a medical emergency and you don’t have an emergency contact for that person, call an ambulance. It’s faster than calling the police for a wellness check (which isn’t always treated as an emergency even if you request it through 911), waiting for them to show up, and then having them call an ambulance if there is a medical emergency.

canidmajor's avatar

No, @SavoirFaire, you didn’t already answer my question. @cookieman addressed it, because that is what what most of us (I assume) would do, try to notify 911.

canidmajor's avatar

Correction, @SavoirFaire, you did very vaguely address it in your first post. My bad.

Kropotkin's avatar

@canidmajor He answered it. It’s also not intellectually honest to concoct a scenario so precise and vivid that your only acceptable answer is to ‘call the cops’—and even this failed as there was a better alternative.

canidmajor's avatar

Yes, @Kropotkin, I acknowledged that he answered it in my post directly above yours.
And I assumed, because @Jeruba is an educated and intelligent person, whose deductive reasoning skills are excellent, that her usage of the words “call the police” likely referred to the calling of 911, which would not necessarily bring actual police, but whatever responders are deemed necessary to the circumstances. In all the places I have lived, “call the police” is just a phrase that covers the use of 911.

If I am mistaken, @Jeruba, I will stand corrected, yet again.

jca2's avatar

In the case of the guy from my job, whose sister had been at his house over the weekend but was afraid to do something further, so let’s wait till Monday and call the job, better that the cops went there than the sister, to see her brother dead on the floor since Thursday night. Cops are familiar with seeing dead bodies, the sister, maybe traumatized forever.

Jeruba's avatar

Thank you to everyone who took my question seriously, as it was meant. If I had felt sure I knew what to do, I wouldn’t have asked.

In the movies, rescuers always show up dramatically and just in time. If they hesitated like me, there’d be no climax to the movie. I worry about doing the wrong thing, intruding on someone’s privacy, exposing them to trauma or embarrassment, causing a problem.

Especially now, with emergency resources so strained, I would not call for an ambulance based on a conjecture or a slow response to e-mail.

Yesterday a nurse was here to treat my husband for an ongoing condition. I asked her what authorities could perform a wellness check. She said only the police and the county sheriff.

@SavoirFaire and @SmashTheState, your stories are harrowing and give me pause. It’s plain to see how they shaped your attitudes. In your place I’d probably feel the same. (And the last time I had a nice encounter with the police was when I was 3 years old. I was happily having an adventure in the wider neighborhood, and they found me and took me home.)

Sarcasm was not necessary, however.

@Kropotkin, what concocted scenario are you talking about? The one where my brother’s ex saved my mother’s life?

My friend is an old woman who’s been in and out of hospitals for various conditions. She would likely be a pretty easy mark for covid-19 if it got near her. (And since I haven’t been tested, I could expose her unwittingly.) She belongs to a women’s chorus, and I’ve attended their concerts. I managed to make contact with another chorus member, who says they haven’t heard from her in weeks.

Now I’m thinking I should drive over there, see if I get a response, and maybe check with her neighbors, risking being taken for a threat as a masked stranger at their doors. I don’t know her neighbors, and she doesn’t know mine, and why would we?

@canidmajor, yes, thanks, I did mean 911 (the emergency line).

I have had to call 911 for my own address more than once in recent years. One of those times it was a medical emergency. The other times, I was terrified out of my wits and there was no other choice remaining. If you can’t picture a situation like that, lucky you.

canidmajor's avatar

@Jeruba, I hope your friend is OK.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The answers on this page subtly illustrate the actual underlying function of the police force—deliberate or not. The truth is that you can call the police in certain circumstances, but in more matters than not it depends on WHO you are. Ask any non white man on the advisability of calling the cops.

Jeruba's avatar

You don’t have to be nonwhite to be wary of an encounter with the cops. In the sixties, just for example, we had our reasons.

Not long ago I saw a white police officer kneel on the back of a young blond, blue-eyed man, in handcuffs, face down on the street, and ignore his cries for relief. I also have a son who gets stopped fairly often just for being out on the street at night.

It’s curious and somewhat unsettling to see how much I seem to have upset some people with my question. Did they even read the details? You’d think I was threatening to call the cops on them instead of just making a sincere request for the benefit of their experience.

I’ve gratefully received news of my friend by way of her choral group. She’s okay, but having trouble with communications devices. I sure wouldn’t want my health and safety to depend on the good offices of the Internet, especially not under present threats. I maintain a telephone landline so at least there’s more than one avenue available.

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba I’m glad you got a good answer about your friend.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Jeruba Thank you for sharing the good news about your friend.

cookieman's avatar

@Jeruba: Good to hear your friend is okay.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@canidmajor “you did very vaguely address it in your first post”

I included EMTs on my list of people better equipped to handle the situation and explicitly mentioned calling an ambulance. I understand how someone could miss those inclusions, but not how someone who had read them could find them to be vague.

“In all the places I have lived, ‘call the police’ is just a phrase that covers the use of 911.”

The question asks about a wellness check, which is an activity specific to the police. It also includes “police” and “cops” in the tags. Nor did @Jeruba respond to any of the police-specific answers with anything like “I meant all emergency services, not just the police.” So it’s not unreasonable for those of us answering the question to think that she really did mean “call the police” when she used the words “call the police.”

@Jeruba Nothing in my answer was sarcastic, and I’m quite sure that nothing in @SmashTheState‘s answer was sarcastic either. Furthermore, it looks to me like everyone who answered the question took it seriously. Everyone read the details. No one is upset. No one thought you were threatening to call the cops on them personally. Some jellies simply had a “no” answer to your title question and gave reasons for their answer that seem to be at odds with what you were expecting.

In any case, I am also glad to hear that your friend is okay.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
SmashTheState's avatar

A 26-year-old B.C. woman is dead after she was shot by police in New Brunswick early Thursday morning.

Family members in Tofino have identified the woman as Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman and mother of a five-year-old girl who had just moved to New Brunswick from Port Alberni a few months ago.

Police in Edmundston, N.B., say at around 2:30 a.m., officers received a request to check on Moore’s wellbeing at an apartment building on Canada Road in Edmundston.

SmashTheState's avatar

Ms Korchinski-Paquet, who was of black and indigenous descent, died after falling from a 24th-floor balcony in Toronto, after police had been called to help her. According to her family she suffered from epilepsy. Her mother had called police to ask them to take her to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto

SmashTheState's avatar

A surveillance video that is part of a civil lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court shows an RCMP officer in Kelowna dragging a female nursing student down a hallway and stepping on her head after a wellness check at her apartment.

SmashTheState's avatar

The province’s police watchdog is investigating the death of a 62-year-old man who was shot by a Peel Region police officer in Mississauga on Saturday evening.

In a statement released on Sunday, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said that officers were called to an apartment unit at 3425 Morning Star Dr., near Goreway Drive, at about 5 p.m. to ’check on the well-being of a man.’

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther