When should you request a welfare check?

Interim Police Chief Nate Taylor at work at Cordova Police Department headquarters. (Nov. 12, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

A welfare check is an in-person police visit to a person’s home to determine whether they are OK. However, because of the flexible criteria for requesting a welfare check, it can be difficult to know when to call one in. Cordova interim Police Chief Nate Taylor urged residents to err on the side of caution and feel free to request a welfare check if they’re worried about another person’s well-being for any reason.

“If you’re concerned, go ahead and call,” Taylor said.

Welfare checks are typically requested when someone hasn’t seen or heard from a neighbor, family member or friend for an unusually long period of time. However, a caller should also be prepared to provide any other specific information regarding the source of their concern, Taylor said. This can include troubling social media posts or other indication that the person in question may be a danger to themselves or to others. However, most welfare checks are requested simply because a person hasn’t been heard from for a while, Taylor said. The Cordova Police Department receives welfare check requests at the rate of roughly one per month, he said.

The department sometimes partners with community organizations like Cordova Family Resource Center, Ilanka Community Health Center and Cordova Community Medical Center’s Sound Alternatives clinic to respond to welfare check requests. A utility company recently called to notify the department of an elderly resident whose residence was unlivable, Taylor said. Officers responded and put the individual in touch with community organizations that were able to improve the individual’s housing situation. Sound Alternatives has also been able to provide assistance to inmates experiencing mental health difficulties, Taylor said.

Typically, the department gets back in touch with callers to inform them of the outcome of a welfare check. However, sometimes officers are unable to successfully perform a welfare check on the basis of the information supplied by a caller. If a caller contacts the police department but doesn’t receive an adequate response, they’re encouraged to call back, Taylor said.

“If you’re not getting what you think the response needs to be, do not hesitate to call again and reiterate and, perhaps, explain better what you’re needing,” Taylor said.

Over the past two months, the department has worked to broaden its communication with the public. By posting more frequently to Facebook and by including more detail in its periodic press releases, the department hopes to give the public a clearer picture of its day-to-day activities, Taylor said.