City Councilors Tito Jackson and Josh Zakim will call for a hearing order Wednesday to address the Northeastern Police’s decision to equip tactical semiautomatic rifles.
The two councilors say that the university’s police department acquired high powered rifles against the wishes of the Boston Police and without addressing elected officials, the adjacent neighborhoods or community organizations.
"Councilor Jackson and I sent a letter to President [Joseph] Aoun regarding this topic," Zakim said. "We very clearly asked him 'to conduct meaningful outreach within [the Northeastern] community and in Mission Hill and Roxbury.' Northeastern chose not to act on our request. For this reason, we feel compelled to follow through on our commitment to holding a substantive hearing for the benefit of the impacted communities we represent."
Wednesday’s hearing order will determine whether the council will host a community forum with residents from Mission Hill and Roxbury regarding Northeastern’s decision to deploy semiautomatic weapons in their communities. Aoun and NUPD Chief Michael Davis as well as representatives from the Boston Police Department will all be invited to testify.
“We’re demanding that Northeastern come before the council and explain why they are adding military assault rifles to the police force,” Jackson said. “The University has not met with the neighborhood or the community groups, nor did they alert the BPD or elected officials. I find it very alarming that a very important matter like this would not have been discussed prior to implementing a plan like this.”
Northeastern Senior Vice President Ralph Martin II wrote to the City Council said that there has been confusion and misinformation spreading regarding Northeastern’s decision to protect the campus from a possible active shooter situation.
“A national gun-safety group tracked 31 active shooters on college campuses last year, FBI data suggests that most active shooter situations are over in less than five minutes, and quarter of them are over in less than two,” he wrote.
Martin also claimed that school officials had made contact with the Boston Police about their plan to introduce the 20 rifles into their defense program.
"I can remember having a dialogue not long ago about whether they should be carrying handguns," Evans told WGBH in December. "Now we're talking about a dialogue on whether they should have patrol rifles. Obviously I don’t think they’re necessary. We can be on those campuses within five or six minutes. We're highly trained."
Martin wrote during those five or six minutes, and that Northeastern Police would have to stand by while hoping that the BPD arrived in time.
“This vulnerability is not acceptable to us given the size, complexity and breadth of our campus,” Martin said in his letter. “The tactical rifles would only be deployed on the campus, and not in the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Jackson said that the council should not have to retroactively ask for clarification.
“As a good neighbor, they should have had a conversation with us,” Jackson said. “The BPD has several SWAT units that are well trained and can handle active shooter situations. Their headquarters are four blocks away from the campus.”
Boston University, MIT, and UMass Boston, along with over 60 other colleges nationwide, have these or similar weapons available in case of an active shooter.
“We want to see what they have done to communicate with the neighborhood,” Jackson said. “They should have proactively spoken to the police, elected officials, neighbors about this plan. We don’t even know where they are getting these weapons from.”