MENLO PARK (CBS SF) — In April, Facebook funded a police substation in a Menlo Park shopping center that was previously closed due to city budget cuts.
It’s part of a three-year agreement approved by Menlo Park City Council members, which also includes funding the salary of a community service officer. But the decision brings up questions over the role of private corporations funding public services like police departments.
“How many other companies are we gonna let do this?” law professor Michael Chasalow said to CBS News. “What if an unsavory company decides they want a police force? Can Enron have a police force?”
- Facebook Gets Lots Of ‘Likes’ For Saving Menlo Park’s Police Substation
- Facebook Agrees To Fund New Menlo Park Police Officer
- Facebook-Funded Police Substation To Open In Menlo Park Shopping Center
Facebook is putting up $194,000 for the salary of Mary Ferguson, an 8-year-veteran of the police department. She’ll work out of the new substation near the Facebook’s headquarters and serve the surrounding neighborhood.
But Menlo Park Police Chief Bob Jonsen says Facebook only pays the bills.
“Their role is strictly the funding aspect of it,” Jonsen said. “They have no control over her responsibilities, her duties, that is all under my authority. And it’s working out very, very well.”
Most of Menlo Park residents are also happy with the deal.
“It’s open to the community and it’s meant to be a place where they feel welcome to come in and talk to the police officers,” said Clay Kerman, assistant to the Menlo Park city manager.
The social media giant is going to pay 75% of the rent until 2016, and has even chipped in design services to create an environment best suited for the needs of the community.
Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller wanted political support for a substation and was stunned by the financial support from Facebook.
“I expect that this will be an ongoing commitment that our residents will expect and be proud of,” Mueller said.
The donation of construction money and the payment of monthly rent for three years is not a PR move according to Mueller. He said Facebook does a lot of community outreach that doesn’t get a lot of publicity, like how COO Sheryl Sandberg personally mentors kids in the local Boys & Girls Club.