A July 14th article in the Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has a partnership with the Menlo Park, California Police Department that includes $194,000 a year to pay the salary and benefits of an additional police officer with special duties involving juveniles and coordinating emergency preparedness with local businesses.

Facebook logo

The “Facebook Cop”

Menlo Park Police Officer Mary Ferguson is occasionally called “The Facebook Cop.” That’s because her salary and benefits are paid for by Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), which is headquartered in this suburban California community.

Facebook recently agreed to pay for a $194,000-a-year police position, including salary and benefits, via an annual donation. The officer is an employee under the command of the Menlo Park PD, and the primary duties of the position are to help children stay in school, work with juvenile offenders, and help large local businesses (including Facebook) plan for emergencies such as fires, earthquakes or violent intruders.

Company-funded police officers unusual

Law enforcement experts say company-funded police officers aren’t unheard of, but they are relatively rare. The trend began in the 1990s when large tech companies helped pay for and equip computer-crime task forces at a number of city police departments, but there are very few situations where a private company explicitly pays for an extra police officer.

Both Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Menlo Park leaders say the agreement is a no-strings gift to the city. Police ethicists have commented, however, about the possibility of conflicts of interest. Other long-term Menlo Park residents say it isn’t a completely altruistic gift, as it is part of an effort to rehabilitate the historically lower-income Belle Haven neighborhood, where crime is an issue but also where Facebook is planning to expand its burgeoning headquarters.

The company argues it doesn’t expect special treatment. Facebook already has its own security team, overseen by a former Secret Service agent. “We just identified a need in the community,” explained Genevieve Grdina, a company spokeswoman. “It’s not the ‘Facebook officer’; it’s the officer for the whole community.”

It should be noted that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) also helped pay for a new police substation in Belle Haven. The tech titan donated more than $200,000 toward the design and construction of the substation, and is also paying most of the $44,400 annual rent. The additional contributions to law enforcement come as the company expands its headquarters campus and is also planning to build 394 housing units for employees within walking distance.