In a first-of-a-kind deal, Facebook will pay the salary of a full-time police officer to patrol Menlo Park, California, where the company's headquarters are located.
The social media giant made a three year, $200,000-a-year offer to fund a new position on the force, which city council unanimously approved on Tuesday. The agreement stipulated that Facebook would have no input in whom the city hired or any other employment issues, such as discipline, after disbursing the funds. On Thursday, the city picked eight-year veteran of the force Mary Ferguson-Dixon.
Business Insider writes that Ferguson-Dixon “won't be patrolling the Facebook campus — the company already employs a private security force for that purpose. Instead, beginning April 1 she will “handle neighborhood issues such as truancy, school and business safety, and overall neighborhood security enhancements” in the Belle Haven neighborhood, notes the San Francisco Gate.
Some are skeptical of the arrangement. NBC spoke to several communities members:
“I find this particularly concerning,” said Alessandro De Giorgi, a justice studies professor at San Jose State University.
Giorgi worries about the ramifications of a private company paying for a historically publicly paid police officer. And in his opinion, any money should go to fund education, not police officers whose job it is to arrest people – especially students – and put them in jail or juvenile hall.
"I don't think there is anything ethically wrong with it," said Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, a nonprofit group that aims to keep governments accountable. "But I don't think it's good government. The notion is that government services are paid for by everyone. This comes awfully close to naming rights. So, what will things be called now, 'Google City Hall?'"
Yet, while it seems like the multi-billion dollar company could better invest in the community in better ways that catching delinquent youths, there's no reason to bite the hand that feeds: the $200,000 salary is one less burden the taxpayers of Menlo Park have to bear.