MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) – Facebook has agreed to pay the City of Menlo Park more than $200,000 a year over the next three years for a community safety police officer. The officer will work out of a new substation near the social networking giant’s headquarters and serve the surrounding neighborhood.
The City Council voted unanimously to accept Facebook’s offer at a meeting Tuesday night.
“It is a win, win, win exactly like you stated. But it’s a win for the broader community as well,” Chief Bob Jonsen of the Menlo Park Police Department said at the meeting.
Officials said the officer would focus on helping schools and business in the Belle Haven neighborhood, which has a big problem with gangs, drugs, and shootings. The officer will create public safety plans, conduct emergency drills and work with at-risk teens.
Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller told KPIX 5, “It’s about building community relationships. So if a crime occurs or someone hears something, they feel comfortable coming to a police officer and saying, ‘I know about this, I trust you.’”
With Facebook picking up the tab, some wonder whether the company will get special treatment.
When asked about any possible conflict of interest, Mueller said, “The only way that you would have a conflict of interest is if somehow someone tried to exert influence over our police force. That’s not going to happen.”
“Facebook as a company has not put any restrictions on how we use this officer,” Jonsen told KPIX 5. “All they’ve ever asked from us is what we can do as a company, meaning Facebook, to help you, law enforcement, in making this a better community.”
A Facebook campus security manager attended Tuesday night’s meeting, but declined media interviews.
Menlo Park police said they have already selected an officer from inside the department to become the community safety officer. She is expected to begin her new duties by April.
Facebook also provided $200,000 for the new substation, which is expected to open by this spring.
Last year, the Belle Haven neighborhood had the highest number of burglaries and aggravated assaults in the city.