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Menlo Park OKs Facebook's offer to fund police officer

Calling it a "win win win," the Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously last night (March 4) to accept Facebook's offer to fund a police officer position for at least three years.

Police Chief Robert Jonsen described the agreement as "a benchmark in public-private partnership" that would benefit youth and businesses within the wider community, not just Menlo Park.

Facebook, with headquarters located not far from where a new substation will open within a strip mall at Hamilton Avenue and Willow Road this spring, offered to pay the city up to $220,000 a year to underwrite the full-time, sworn officer position. It will also consider renewing the agreement for another two years.

The officer, like any other, will work solely for the city, not Facebook. According to the police chief, the work will focus on schools and kids, with priorities that include responding to any school incidents and creating programs designed to reconnect truants with their schools.

Creating safety plans for responding to "man-made assaults ... the most violent types of attacks that come upon our most sacred ground, schools" will also be a priority, according to Chief Jonsen. The planning will also encompass local businesses.

"Thank you, Facebook. Your generosity speaks for itself," Councilman Rich Cline said, then asked how the effectiveness of the position would be assessed.

Chief Jonsen said it was "very measurable" and, as an example, cited using data analysis to see if there's a correlation between reduction in crime and a reduction in truancy, which he described as "a gateway to crime."

This is the first time a private company has offered to foot the bill for a police officer in Menlo Park, according to City Attorney Bill McClure. The social networking company is also helping to pay for the new Belle Haven substation itself.

Comments

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Posted by RW
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

Just like I have concerns about privatized prisons, I have concerns about private funds being paid for public services. Is this not a slippery slope towards a situation similar to Blackwater in the Middle East?


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Posted by Jonathan L
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm

RW - I don't think this is anything like a privatized prison, which is a contracted (private) facility paid for with public funds. In this case, think of it as directed, voluntary taxes. Private funds are flowing to the Menlo Park government, which in turn is using those funds to hire a public employee, who will be working for the police department, not for the organization who contributed the funds. There are many cases where public goods are paid for with private funds (e.g. developers who build/repave roads or build sidewalks and then turn them over to the government). It is very different than the government outsourcing functions that are deemed to be inherently governmental in nature.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Well, I guess there is such a thing as a free lunch.
What happens at the end of 3-years, if for whatever reason, Facebook no longer funds the police officer? Do you eliminate the position... or is it then supported by the General Fund? How hypocritical for the City to accept gifts on the one hand, and to make cuts at a whim when it suits them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm

If the system is working properly Facebooks taxes would cover all costs involved. Just like all the other businesses that pay taxes for the services they recieve!
Facebook is only trying to make everyone think they are better than others!


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2014 at 7:56 am

Who pays the pension costs accrued during this period?


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

I believe they were included. Should FB not continue to fund the position, then attrition within will take care of the officer being used.


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