Viral TikTok Showing Police Kicking Door for Welfare Check Sparks Debate

A woman sparked debate online after filming a police welfare check at her residence in Massachusetts in which they kicked her door and entered. Mari Helena, or @afraid0fthedark on TikTok, posted the video of the incident, which received more than 4.6 million views.

"They were sent for a wellness check..." the on-screen text read as a police officer repeatedly kicked the lock on the front door.

A wellness check, also known as a police welfare check, is typically performed when someone unexpectedly stops all contact and there is worry about their safety or wellbeing. A welfare check can be requested by contacting the police through a non-emergency number, or 911 if they believe the person is in danger.

When a welfare check is called, police do not require a court order to enter the residence if they have reasonable grounds to believe the person is in danger. Typically the officers will wait at the front door to see if the person answers and if not they are able to enter. This is done in case the person is unconscious and emergency services are necessary.

In the background of the video, a woman could be heard talking to another officer as he told her to step away.

"Just so we're clear, there's one person running this show right now and it ain't you," the other officer said to the woman as he approached the front door.

He then handed a key to the other officer and he unlocked the front door. The two officers then entered the residence and began approaching Mari. One called her by name before the other grabbed her arm and attempted to lead her out of the residence.

One officer told the other to grab Mari's arm and then he asked Mari to stand up but it appeared that she dropped down to the ground.

"Just walk, young lady, it'll be a lot simpler for you," one officer said as Mari's camera tilted toward the ground. Eventually, she was brought outside, and one woman approached her and told her she was OK.

In another TikTok, Mari voiced over the original footage and said that the welfare check was called after she did not reply to an email from her group home about if she was doing OK. She claimed that the police arrived after about three to four hours after she received the email.

Mari also said that the woman yelling at one of the officers in the background of the video had no relation to her and did not call them. She said that she did not have Wi-Fi at the time and that when it came back on she found emails from her group home and her social worker.

"So I responded to my social worker but I didn't respond to my group home and even then it was too late," Mari said in the voiceover. "It was already 20 minutes after I sent the email that they showed up so I'm thinking they had already been called."

Police performing welfare check
A TikToker in Massachusetts sparked online debate after she posted footage of police entering her home during a welfare check. Above, a police officer looks through the window of a residence in Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 29, 2004. Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images

She also said she thinks they were only called to make sure she was "okay and alive," but when she asked the person who called the police if that's what was supposed to happen, she said no.

"They weren't even supposed to go in the house," Mari said.

Mari said that the reason the police were called was that the caller wanted to make sure she was OK. She said somebody contacted her and said that Mari left school acting "weird" but she said it was because she was on her period.

In a statement to Newsweek, the Plymouth Police Department said the officers feared Mari was in imminent danger so they entered the home.

"Although we recognize officers could have communicated better, the officers had a legal obligation to take care of this young lady," the statement said. "Their lawful entry allowed them to have her evaluated by paramedics and subsequently transported her to the hospital for treatment by ambulance."

Mari's original video received more than 11,100 comments, and many were divided over the way the welfare check was performed.

Many said the police had every right to kick the door and enter the residence if they were worried that she was at risk of harming herself. Others said Mari should have gone to the door to tell them she was OK.

"Answering the door and confirming you were ok would have avoided that and deescalated the situation," one user wrote. "It didn't have to get there."

But others thought that the police were overly "violent" and that they were not equipped to handle the situation.

"I keep seeing they're doing their job. They're doing their job. But are they really?" one comment said. "Wellness Check should never result in dragging the person you're checking on like she committed a crime."

"That's why I posted these videos," Mari said in a follow-up. "To get people to realize why calling the police is not what you do in these situations."

Update 12/21/21, 9:15 a.m. ET: This story was updated with a statement from the Plymouth Police Department.