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February 1, 2023

This ‘Wellness Check’ Should Be Red-Flagged!

A case study of how the justification for wellness and red flag checks can easily be abused.

“It is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government. … Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever persuasion, religious or political.” —Thomas Jefferson (1801)

If you are one of the estimated 80 to 100 million gun owners in America, or live in one of the 45% of homes with a firearm, you are likely aware of so-called “red flag” laws — “common sense” statutes in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Those laws provide a method, ostensibly, for identifying and disarming those who are potentially a threat to themselves or others. In principle, those laws may seem reasonable, but in fact they are subject to serious abuse by anyone wishing to have police target those they don’t like.

Allow me to introduce you to the red flag’s kissin’ cousin, the “police wellness check.” That is generally understood to be, “When police stop by a person’s home to make sure they are okay.” Requests for welfare checks are made by friends, family, and neighbors, typically after someone unexpectedly stops communicating with others.

Wellness checks are common nationwide, and they most often involve checking in with someone who is elderly or disabled and who lives alone. Frequently, they result in much-needed assistance to an individual in distress.

Last year, I asked local law enforcement officers to conduct a wellness check for an alcoholic who lives alone and had not been heard from in 10 days. He was fine and appreciated the concern. Last month, I witnessed a police wellness check that resulted in removal of an individual who was suffering a drug-induced psychotic break. He was committed by court order to a mental health hospital for two weeks until his physician believed he was stable.

Removing a person from a house during a wellness check is generally associated with a serious medical condition. Wellness checks are not usually court ordered, but involuntary committal requires a court order.

There have recently been some high-profile wellness checks, like that for actress Britney Spears this week. But good intentions aside, some checks turn deadly — for the person police are checking on, and sometimes for police officers themselves.

Few red flag and wellness checks gain national attention, other than cases involving mass shooters who were known to law enforcement agencies, but the latter failed to intervene. Notably, that would include assaults in Highland Park, Illinois, Uvalde, Texas, and Parkland, Florida — all sociopaths with common violent indoctrination threads.

Both red flag and wellness checks can be motivated by malice and can thus be used as a means to target foes, and in extreme cases used to force involuntary committals of law-abiding citizens, and confiscate their weapons.

This week, a friend called my attention to a case in Alaska, a wellness check that, at its root, may have been the result of religious discrimination.

Mike “Dozer” Shower, who I know from his days as an F-22 squadron commander, is now an Alaska state senator. He approaches that service much as he did his military service, guided by his oath “to support and defend” our Constitution. His opponents discovered the hard way why Mike’s call sign is “Dozer,” and some never knew what hit them.

Senator Shower directed me to a case in which a highly respected principal of a public school was targeted for a wellness check likely because she is — wait for it — a conservative Christian.

Mary Fulp, principal at Colony High School, who was also recognized as the 2022 Alaska Principal of the Year, was removed from her home by Alaska state troopers and involuntarily committed without a court order.

Apparently, one of Fulp’s siblings was “concerned” about a faith message she posted on Facebook and demanded the wellness check.

Reporter Art Chance described the incident: “Visualize yourself sitting comfortably in your home just before noon on a Wednesday. … An Alaska State Trooper knocks at the door, you answer, and the Trooper tells you he’s at your home for a ‘welfare check.’ You don’t appear to be in danger or a resident of crazy town, so the officer thanks you for your time and goes on his/her way.”

In fact, the troopers later confirmed after the first visit that Fulp “was not exhibiting signs of grave disability from a mental health issue and was not likely to cause serious harm to herself or others and therefore did not meet the conditions for emergency detention under AS 47.30.705.”

Chance continues: “A few hours later … there is a knock at the door. Now there are two troopers with a family member who asserts that she has a court order to have you detained and sent for psychiatric evaluation. Troopers accepted the authority of such an order and without resistance led you away in custody to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. You endure the indignity of having your personal possessions confiscated and being stripped of your clothing and dressed in a hospital gown. A psychotropic drug is administered to you. You are detained for three days. Then the whole system says, ‘never mind.’”

Mary Fulp was removed from her home without cause and subjected to a terrifying detention.

Reporter Suzanne Downing was told by Fulp’s legal counsel, “She was forced into a mental health facility without a court order, by those with whom she and the community place their trust, the Department of Public Safety (DPS).” Additionally, they told Downing: “DPS has candidly acknowledged their officers should have never forced her into a 72-hour mental health commitment. … At no time did she pose a risk of harm to herself or others, and she should have never been forcibly placed into a mental health facility.”

Indeed, Colonel James Cockrell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, issued an apology after determining his troopers acted on a family member’s claims of a court order that the Alaska Court System has confirmed was never issued. What the family member produced was a forged document, and Cockrell said his troopers “should have done their due diligence to ensure that it was a proper and legal document.” He said, “We made a drastic mistake here and I’ve ordered a review of our policies and procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Fulp’s counsel also noted: “To compound matters, the mental health facility knew it had no valid court order to hold her. … This traumatic experience is a free citizen’s worst nightmare, and this broken system has caused her, and her children, inexcusable and immeasurable harm.”

Mike Shower noted, “The wellness check process is connected to a red flag provision in Alaska law passed last year concerning involuntary commitment, and ex parte applications are legal IF a court finds cause AND issues an order.” It was a measure on which he voted “no.” He concludes: “Notwithstanding the validity of the court order, what is troubling about Red Flag Commitment Laws is the lack of due process — they violate fundamental constitutional principles of due process. The system failed in a big way.”

Fact is, the family member may have had genuine concerns about Fulp. But the point is that if the process could be manipulated by someone who is actually concerned, consider how vulnerable it is to being abused by someone who is maliciously vindictive in any state where a “wellness check” could be used when a red flag check is not an option. And once detained in violation of their 14th Amendment rights to due process, individuals can be further deprived of their Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Shower’s effort to correct holes in Alaska’s red flag laws, and the coming monetary settlements resulting from the violation of Mary Fulp’s fundamental rights, should, in the words of DPS’s Cockrell, “ensure this doesn’t happen again.” Unfortunately, because such actions are subject to human judgments and errors, it will.

No word on whether Facebook has banned anyone objecting to Fulp’s post for for “bullying.”

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