Natick community members ,
Update: Natick Police on Monday night issued the following brief update regarding the gun that they and state police had been searching for in town:
The missing firearm was located on Rte. 128 by the Massachusetts State Police. This event remains under investigation.
Natick Police issued an alert on social media Thursday morning regarding a missing gun that may have fallen from atop a vehicle being driven through town.
The warning reads: “A person has reported that they inadvertently left a firearm on top of their vehicle and it may have fallen off in the area of Lilja School. The area has been thoroughly searched by police and is being searched again. If you see anything, please do not handle it and call 911 immediately. As a precaution Officers will be stationed in the area for the start of school today.”
Lilja Elementary School parents and guardians were notified of the situation as well by the school via email on Thursday morning, for some as they were arriving at bus stops.
Some residents were alerted by a text from the police and Natick Public Schools superintendent:
The police department Facebook post set off a serious of comments from concerned parents and general rabble-rousers, with obligatory gun rights debate.
The police post went on to say that the incident involved a visitor to a private residence in Natick who reported the situation. Natick and state police K-9 unit searched the area near Lilja and along the driver’s route throughout the night and early hours. The gun was not lost on school grounds, according to the police.
The Natick Police Department reports that it received a 911 call just after 4am on Thursday from a 22-year-old man who said he had just been the victim of an armed home invasion, assault and battery, and robbery.
Units responded and found the young man shaken up but not injured. He reported that he is staying at the Natick residence, the home of a friend and was alone at the time of the incident.
The victim reported that several masked men, one whom the victim believed was carrying a firearm, entered the home while he was asleep. They ransacked the home and found him in a bedroom where they assaulted him and stole several of his personal items. They then fled on foot.
Units from Natick, including its K-9 team, with assistance from Framingham, Wellesley and the Massachusetts State Police, searched the area but it is believed that the suspects fled in a vehicle.
This incident remains under investigation.
This is not believed to be a random attack. If you witnessed anything that you believe may be pertinent to the
investigation, contact the Natick Police Detective Division, Lt. Chad Howard at 508-647-9616.
About a dozen members out of the 59-member Natick Police Department were on hand on a sweltering late-spring afternoon at a Coffee with Cop event, coordinated with and hosted by Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea in Natick Center. The goal of the event was to support relationships between the NPD and the community as officers chatted informally with residents. About 15 community members attended at any given time during the 4-hour meet-and-greet as neighbors stopped in to order beverages and graze from Sweetwaters-supplied platters of baked goodies.
Since Natick Report is somewhat new in town, we stopped by to get to know a few of Natick’s finest, who told us they were looking for a few good people to add to their ranks. Natick Police Chief James Hicks recently has spoken about the issue on the locally produced Black Lives Matter program on Natick Pegasus. During the interview, Chief addressed challenges of minority hiring under the state’s civil service system and previewed training efforts underway within the department to ensure personnel understands the history of policing.
The conversation as we moved from group to group invariably turned toward the recent events in Braintree in which 2 of that city’s officers were injured by gunshots on June 4, and their K-9 was also shot and died as a result. It was clear that the violence loomed large as a stark reminder of how quickly things can change on the job.
“Natick is a great town to work in and we have great relationships with the residents,” Lt. Cara Rossi said. “After the Braintree incident, a resident called the department and said she wanted to donate a safety vest for our K-9.”
Natick already has such safety gear for Koda, their 2-year old Belgian Malonois, but Lt. Rossi told the story to illustrate what she said was a typical show of concern from residents.
Natick Police Chief James Hicks, speaking on the locally produced Black Lives Matter program on Natick Pegasus, addressed challenges of minority hiring under the state’s civil service system and previewed training efforts underway within the department to ensure personnel understands the history of policing.
“We have a much easier way of recruiting for our non-sworn staff [those without a badge, firearm privileges, etc.],” Hicks said
. “Our sworn staff falls under civil service, which is a very complicated and strict process and procedure on how to hire. It’s based on state civil service guidelines. We can only hire from a list they send us.”
Hicks said only 23 Natick residents signed up to take the current civil service exam, only a third of the usual number. None were minorities, he said. This despite new recruiting techniques employed by the department, including the release of a promotional video (seen below) distributed via social media and to community colleges.
Natick could choose to pick from a statewide civil service list of candidates, including those not from Natick who are interested in working here. But restrictions still apply that wouldn’t guarantee any minority candidates would be among those Natick could hire, Chief Hicks emphasized in a follow-up interview with us that while the civil service process has restrictions, police departments are not forced by the system to hire anyone in particular.
Reasons for the drop-off in candidates are numerous, Hicks said. One contributing factor is that the profession is going through tough times, being under attack by the public for high profile violence incidents. But he stressed this is by far not the only factor. Another is that those who in the past might have considered police work are now opting for higher paying and more flexible jobs in fields such as technology, Hicks said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do as a profession in coming years to do damage control and work on communications to win over the community and win over people who we can bring into policing,” he said.
Communities nearby Natick, including Framingham, Sudbury, and Wellesley, have left the civil service system, and now have their own systems for recruiting, hiring, promoting, training, and disciplining police personnel. Hicks said there are pros and cons to making such a move, and it’s unclear to him whether these moves have resulted in any richer minority candidate pools. Natick could consider this, though it would take an article being passed by Town Meeting as well as negotiations regarding collective bargaining.
Hicks said he has heard from the Civil Service Commission that communities that have left the civil service system haven’t diversified their workforces any more than those in it. Though the chief said he has not verified this with a wide range of communities (he mentioned a couple that are no more diverse).
If Natick wanted to go to the Civil Service Commission route and specifically request access to minority candidates, the town would basically have to admit it has been discriminatory in its hiring. “Do we want to open up that can of worms when we know that hasn’t been the case, since we’ve been following their rules?” he said during the local access interview.
One way in which the Natick Police Department would love to diversify is in terms of officers who speak multiple languages. Currently it has one has speaks German and one who speaks Spanish in addition to English. Given the local population of Portuguese speakers, having officers with that skill would be valuable. The town currently uses a language line, an expensive 800 number service, to communicate in other languages.
Hicks also started to discuss new training efforts, and consultant Melissa Patrick picked up on that when the chief had to leave the meeting. Patrick is working with the department on a police and community workshop program that includes a focus on the history of policing. The department feels it’s important for its team to know about this in dealing appropriately with the community.
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