Menlo Park Hires Cop With Facebook Money

The nation's first known police officer paid for not by tax dollars, but by a private company - in this case, Facebook - has been chosen:  She's a veteran of the Menlo Park police force with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and sociology with a passion for working with kids.

On Thursday, the Menlo Park Police Department introduced Mary Ferguson-Dixon, who has worked for the department for eight years. But she is taking a new role in a position that is open solely because Facebook decided to donate $600,000 over three years to the city where it is headquartered, as part of an unprecedented private-public partnership, experts told NBC Bay Area.

Her new position as "community safety police officer," now opens up a vacancy in the department, which Cmdr. Dave Bertini said he's looking to fill.

"Mary is a pro-active police officer who enjoys working with kids,"  Bertini said. "And her passion and enthusiasm for truancy abatement will drive the department’s program in a successful direction for the youth of Menlo Park."

Facebook took an unprecedented step by giving $200,000 a year to Menlo Park - officially accepted on Tuesday night - becoming the first known private company to fund a full-time beat cop. The company heard about the city's desire to fund this position, mostly to work around the schools, but also to create safety plans for large campuses, and decided to be a "good neighbor," Bertini said in a previous interview.

Facebook, the social media media company, is headquartered in Menlo Park about a quarter mile away from where Ferguson-Dixon will be stationed.

Several experts think such an arrangement is “good corporate citizenship” and the model of future partnerships. But some critics are uncomfortable with the idea of a privately paid “Facebook Cop,” fearing this might offer the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Bertini insisted that Facebook had no say in the hiring of the officer, or any other say, after donating the funds for at least the next three years. Under the contract, (PDF) Ferguson-Dixon will earn $108,000 a year plus benefits.

Ferguson-Dixon will continue with her efforts on a truancy abatement program that she created four years ago, and will also work with Sgt. Kevin Paugh to offer safety presentations and teach critical incident management.

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