Northeastern Plans To Arm Its Campus Force With Semiautomatic Rifles

Download Audio

The Boston Police Department and Northeastern University are at odds over the school's decision to arm its police force with semiautomatic weapons to respond to certain campus threats.

Northeastern said in a statement it has a "highly trained police department with more than 60 officers."

"Like other universities with police departments, our officers are trained to employ a number of capabilities to protect the campus community, including the use of tactical rifles if necessary," the statement added.

But the decision is not sitting well with the Boston Police Department.

Spokesman Lt. Mike McCarthy says Commissioner William Evans has been open about not arming Boston police with these weapons.

"We focus on community policing and more of a demilitarization kind of concept, and that's getting out and talking to people," McCarthy said. "These universities are part of the neighborhood, and it's our take that when you're doing something that has an impact on a neighborhood like that, there should be some involvement from the neighborhood, the community and, certainly, the Boston Police Department."

Reaction on the Northeastern campus, along Huntington Avenue, was mixed on Wednesday. Student Jared Miller said he's concerned.

"If there are any weapons, they should be in the hands of the city," Miller said. "In terms of Northeastern, given that it is just a college and not its own territory, they should be using kinda like the British model of less enforcement and less guns."

But other students out Wednesday afternoon said they don't mind.

"Because I'm from India, and people do have guns there, like the cops," Kanisth Raghani said, "I don't mind it really, and there have been some shootings in this area."

"Yeah, we get a lot of incidents nearby," Saumya Chopra interjected, "so I think them being armed is only safer for us."

A Northeastern spokesperson stressed that the university has had semiautomatic rifles for years, with officers trained to use them.

The Boston University Police Department also has semiautomatic rifles.

Boston police say most colleges in the city have unarmed police.

This segment aired on December 9, 2015.

Headshot of Fred Thys

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



More from All Things Considered

Listen Live