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A group of faculty members at Northeastern University sent a letter to the school president Friday to voice concern about the use of semiautomatic rifles by campus police.

The letter, addressed to President Joseph E. Aoun and signed by about 60 members of the faculty, complains that the university decided to deploy the weapons without consulting community members.

School officials say the department has had semiautomatic rifles for many years but only recently created a formal plan to use them. The weapons will be used in officers' cruisers during high-level threats, Northeastern police officials said.

Faculty members wrote that they are troubled that many people learned of the decision through the media.


"We are uneasy about statements made to the press that not only fail to advance an appropriately measured public safety response commensurate with a rational assessment of the threat, but also run the risk of making some members of the Northeastern community feel less safe," the letter said.

The faculty also wrote that the risk for misuse of the semiautomatic rifles is likely to exceed the benefits of protection that could come from them. In some ways, the letter adds, the firearms could make "some members of the Northeastern community feel less safe."

"We are prepared to support effective strategies to further that safety interest," the letter said. "We do not believe they include the availability and use of tactical weapons by a police force whose primary roles are not active engagement with lethal events."

The faculty letter comes in the midst of community backlash to a university decision to allow their police department to carry semiautomatic rifles.

City leaders and Northeastern students have voiced their own concerns this week, many concerned with the lack of engagement between university officials and community members while the decision was made.


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.