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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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The Creepiest Calls

You never know what you may find on “check the welfare” calls. For somewhere beyond the door may lie a victim of a stroke or heart attack, a seizure, or a crime in progress.

May 30, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

They’re the calls that get the little hairs to stand up on the back of your neck. That give you the heebie-jeebies and Goosebumps. They’ll make you think twice about calling that idiot protagonist in the horror film an idiot protagonist for going into that room you know she shouldn’t go into. They can be some of the most rewarding calls you’ll roll on, and some of the most depressing.

And sooner or later you will have them.

They’re “check the welfare” calls.

The little old lady from Pasadena?

Check on her.

The paranoid militia member with an enviable firearm collection?

Check on him.

The man who appears to be passed out behind the wheel?

Check on him. Is he a DUI? A suicidal man passed out from pills? An exhausted criminal who’s finally crashed for some sleep? Or someone who’s simply pulled off the side of the road for some Zs?

How do you make such calls a little less creepy, a little more safe?

First, do things by the numbers. Get a lay of the land. Usually, there’s no exigency that necessitates your having to make an immediate entry into the location; usually, it’s just as well that you don’t.

Whether or not it’s a child, an animal, or an elderly citizen, get as much intel on the location as you can. Contact neighbors. Inquire as to the mental and physical health of the residents. Ask what kind of people visit. And just before you do attempt an entry, have the desk make one more call into the location.

When going inside the location, make repeated announcements of your presence. Call out for the person you’re attempting to locate. Make sure you have a good flashlight with you (a bigger concern for cops working day shift and whom a little illumination isn’t a daily concern). Take your time going from room to room. Knock and listen attentively for several seconds outside interior doors before opening them.

You never know what you may find on such calls. For somewhere beyond the door may lie a victim of a strokes or heart attack, a seizure, or a crime in progress.

On one such call, my partner and I could not get a response at the resident’s front door. Walking to the rear of the house, I saw the woman lying on the kitchen floor and non-responsive to our knocks. We broke out a window and got inside to find that she’s suffered a stroke. Later, we received an appreciative letter from her family.

But such calls can also precipitate tragedy.

A Stanton, Calif., Police Officer, responding to a call to check the welfare of an apartment unit resident, found a five-year-old boy locked in a dark back room. The boy had been left at home alone for hours by his mother who was working as a prostitute after getting off of her regular job at the Montgomery Ward service department. The boy had concealed himself before pointing what appeared to be a gun at the officer. The officer fired one shot, killing the boy instantly. It turned out that the gun was a realistic looking toy gun.

Be aware that whether or not someone is at home, threats may be there. A Wilmington, Calif., police officer was checking whether two children had been left at home alone with a dog. The dog in question bit the officer, who in turn shot the dog.

You can’t anticipate everything, and inevitably, there will be surprises. Just remember that when checking on the welfare of another, to look out for your own.

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