Estranged parents threatening to call police
February 4, 2014 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I'd just like opinions on how to handle the potential situation of a police officer and relative showing up at my apartment at the request of other family members. More relevant details inside:

Thanks in advance, Metafilter. I'm mostly a little scared and could use some advice about what to expect and what my options might be, and opinions as to whether I am doing everything alright. I cut off contact with my family last October for very good reasons (verbal abuse related, and just a host of things I couldn't deal with anymore). I called and told them very explicitly that I no longer wanted contact, and why, and that if they were worried about me they were welcome to check my facebook page. Since then I've been filtering all calls and email and checking them every so often, but haven't responded to anything. I just listened to a voicemail from the abusive family member saying they were going to have their cousin, who is a police officer here, come to my home to 'do a wellness check'? if I didn't call them in a week.
Is this a thing that a police officer can do? If this happens how do I handle it?
This is in Chicago.
posted by velebita to Human Relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you call the Chicago police non-emergency line and discuss the situation? Get to them first, as it were.
posted by brainmouse at 5:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

I don't know about Chicago, but when my neighbor in Phoenix had a wellness check done on her (for equally questionable/slimy reasons), they just showed up and talked to her for a minute to verify that she was alive and not under duress. They also talked a bit about the slimy reasons behind the "wellness check," and the officer documented them, but if your police officer is a family member, your situation could potentially be more worrisome, depending on the individual.
posted by Weeping_angel at 5:33 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Does this police officer cousin know that you've gone no-contact? Are you certain of this, either way?

If the answer is "Yes, I am certain that he or she knows," then greet the officer politely at the door, refuse to let the officer inside, take the officer's badge and precinct numbers (and vehicle ID, if you can see it without leaving your home), and immediately call the officer's precinct to file a complaint of harassment.

If the answer is "I'm not certain whether he or she knows" or "I'm certain he or she doesn't know," then greet the officer politely at the door, explain that you no longer wish to associate with your family (the officer included, presumably), thank the officer for his or her time, refuse to let the officer inside, and take the officer's badge and precinct numbers (and vehicle ID, if you can see it without leaving your home), but don't call the officer's precinct unless he or she comes back.

Either way, if the police officer cousin actually shows up, call a lawyer and look into getting a restraining order against the abusive family member.
posted by Etrigan at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2014 [42 favorites]

The City of Chicago will conduct a "senior wellness check" at the request of a concerned neighbor or family member or the like, but it's not a police function--it's a social services function of the City.

I am unaware of any wellness check protocol in Chicago for non-seniors. Frankly, CPD doesn't have the time to come out for some 911 calls, so I'd be shocked if they did this. I suspect the police status of your cousin is being invoked to intimidate you, not as an official duty of a police officer.

At any rate. I agree with the advice to answer the door if a uniformed police officer arrives and ask to see ID (recording the badge number, which District/Area, and the officer's name) and politely inform the officer that you are fine and that no, the officer cannot come in.

However if someone shows up not in a uniform, claiming to be a police officer, call 911 and say that someone without a uniform is knocking on your door, invoking the CPD to get you to open up.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:45 PM on February 4, 2014 [29 favorites]

Try calling the police non-emergency line as brainmouse suggests - see what they say. You don't necessarily have to identify yourself.

I would strongly suggest talking to a lawyer about getting a restraining order. Your family clearly do not respect your wishes to not have any contact with them. You need to document your telling hem that you don't want any further contact, and their subsequent attempts to contact you.

You don't need to read their emails, but just filter them into a folder so you can use them as evidence later. If they're calling you on a smartphone, there are apps you can use that will screen their calls, but record the fact that they called so you can use them as evidence later.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:45 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your family can easily check your wellness. Put a status on FB saying you are well, in some manner. If a police officer who is a family member shows up to do a wellness check, complain to the police commissioner about unnecessary invasion of your privacy. Your family is escalating because they want a response from you. Do not oblige them.
posted by theora55 at 5:48 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

A wellness check is pretty common and relatively informal. I'd tell the police officer that you've cut off all contact from your family, and would this event constitute the ability to get a restraining order?I would be concerned if your cousin is the police officer that does the call. If it is, call 911 and report it.

The most important thing you can do is stay calm. If they call in a mental health call, you can be taken to a hospital for an offical evaluation. But staying completely calm will make it an inconvience, but you will be okay.

Calling 311 in advance might help, but I doubt it. The city is way more reactive than proactive.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:49 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

EDIT: I realize now to above comments that I do work in social services with people who are disabled and conduct wellness visits ALL THE TIME. But we are social services and we have lots of documentation about why they would need a wellness check.

However, a mental health call is something police do respond to, and if your cousin is a police officer they will know that. If that happens there will be multiple of police officers (like 5) I've seen it happen.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:59 PM on February 4, 2014

It sounds like your father is trying to manipulate you into contacting him. Why not call his bluff by waiting to see what happens? I'd be very surprised if your cousin ever shows up. If your cousin does show up, be polite and respectful, explain the situation, and then close the door and go back to your life.
posted by Mr. Fig at 6:07 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Etrigan has it.

This actually happened to me, twice, although the attending officers were not related to me.

It can't be emphasized enough: If they do show up, stay calm. Stay eerily cool and collected, even detached if you can manage it, no matter what the LEOs say, do, or ask. Act like it's the most boring, normal event in the world, but you really can't wait to finish your dinner or favorite TV show or homework or whatever, so if there's nothing else they'll be needing, could you bid them a good evening? Depending on a combination of what kind of day/night they're having and what they've been told beforehand, they could be totally distracted and looking for any reason to leave, polite but annoyingly thorough, or aggressive and even downright antagonistic. Stay calm no matter what. Go to your happy place and try not to flinch. Report it up the chain of command if your cousin starts smudging his or her professional boundaries.

None of the officers I've ever encountered have been remotely interested in helping me file a restraining order against anyone in my family ("She's your mother!") and cooperation seems even less likely from a relative, but if you feel like they might empathize with your plight, it could be worth a shot.

You know this already, but just to reiterate: Do not contact your family in any way. Tell your friends you might need to lean on them a little more than usual for the next few weeks -- I know it's scary, but this is what they're there for.

Please take care, hang in there, and feel free to MeMail me if you need a pep talk!
posted by divined by radio at 6:10 PM on February 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

Police officers do wellness checks -- at the direction of their superiors, not at the request of friends or relatives.

If cousin police officers knocks on your door after work hours to check, stay super calm, say you're fine, thanks, but you don't want to discuss it with him and ask him politely to leave. Then close the door. If he keeps knocking, give one warning that you're going to call the cops for trespassing, then do it.

If he shows up in uniform during his shift, ask for his superior's phone number to call and double-check that he's actually there for work. If he gives you any shit at all, call the cops like it's an emergency -- because, frankly, a bully in blue on your doorstep, abusing his uniform and position to do the bidding of family members IS an emergency.

I would not actually let this person into my house in either scenario, and I probably wouldn't be polite but that's against all the good advice in this thread.

If you're of legal age and legally competent, you don't owe anything to any of them. Don't be bullied!
posted by mibo at 6:20 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think there's some questionable ethics about a person in a position of authority getting involved with family in an official capacity. I would certainly call the non-emergency number to ask about CPD's official policy on officers investigating familial matters. That way if this person does show up at your door, you can state what you know about whether his/her visit is aligned with department policy.
posted by brookeb at 6:39 PM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Here is sort of a overview of the current legal standings on welfare checks, which are on one hand controversial because they are sometimes used to do some questionable 4th amendment stuff, but on the other hand what else are you going to do if you legitimately haven't seen your downstairs neighbor in a week and there's a smell and the landlord isn't answering the phone?

I would call the non-emergency line and file a report that a relative is threatening welfare checks, despite access to updated information regarding your welfare, before it happens.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:36 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

IAL - just chiming in with law stuff. Absent a warrant, or a reasonable suspicion of imminent harm, or crime being committed RIGHT NOW in the dwelling, police cannot enter. I'm sorry you are having to worry about this. BUT, if cousin in blue does show up I'd strongly consider stepping outside and closing the door behind you to talk to cousin on the step. I would not under any circumstances (any circumstances) ever allow an officer on duty into the home for any reason.

If they really want to enter they need a court order. As long as you are composed (I agree with all commenters above) and not high / stinking of bad hygiene / obviously malnourished [ I don't hear you saying any of those are issues in your situation] cousin will be weighing significant negative consequences at work against doing what his uncle or whomever wants.

They cannot require entry. Do not consent.
posted by BrooksCooper at 7:49 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mother called the police on me for the same reason once. The cops never showed up and I understand that they actually laughed at her, but she didn't have any connections to them.

I'd say follow Etrigen's advice and yes, under no circumstances let them in your house.
posted by winna at 7:50 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

The police came and did a wellness check on me once when I let my newspapers piled up for a few days. I think the neighbors probably called them. Once the officers saw that I wasn't a rotting corpse, they left.

I wouldn't be too worried about it beyond normal precautions of interacting with the police. You should document everything in case you need to file a restraining order against your family someday, though.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:30 PM on February 4, 2014

Just a note about what Divined by Radio said above - police officers don't "help" people file restraining orders. You just need a lawyer, and as much documentation of your situation as you can put together in order to persuade the judge that you need a restraining order. If your family are harassing you, document it and present your case to a lawyer who can work pro bono or for a contingency fee.

If you do go the restraining order route, and you get one - ask the judge how to make sure your order will be enforced by your precinct. Send a copy of the order to the captain of your precinct. If he has any issues with it, go back to court to get it straightened out. A restraining order doesn't do any good unless the police are willing to enforce it.

Good luck!
posted by cartoonella at 2:04 AM on February 5, 2014

I don't see this as a wellness check. I see this as your family using someone who happens to be a cop to at best push buttons and at worst bully you with a hired thug.

Please call non-emergency line and find out what the rules and guidelines are. Perhaps your calling will count as you reporting yourself well.

You should also call a women's center or abuse hot line for Chicago specific advice.

Even if your family thinks "we're sending police to your house" isn't some kind of threat - you should behave as though you are dealing with a threat.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:11 AM on February 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

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