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Meet Mary Ferguson, AKA the Facebook Cop, whose position was created through public-private partnership between tony Menlo Park and the social media giant.
Over the next three years, Facebook agreed to pay $600,000 to the town, where the company also happens to be headquartered.
Ferguson, 34, who’s paid $194,000 in salary and benefits per year for her services, keeps an eye on the internet behavior of potentially unruly kids by using an online persona that hides her true identity.
Ferguson’s primary duties apart from patrolling Facebook include keeping children in school, working with juvenile offenders, and helping large area businesses equip themselves for natural disasters, campus shootings or other violent crimes, reports the Wall Street Journal.
‘Mary is a pro-active police officer who enjoys working with kids,’ Commander Dave Bertini told NBC Bay Area in March, when the force first accepted the funds. ‘Her passion and enthusiasm for truancy abatement will drive the department’s program in a successful direction for the youth of Menlo Park.’
While many residents of the well-off tech town appear happy with the unusual corporate partnerships, some people see a conflict of interest.
Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller supports the partnership.
‘Facebook moved into a part of town that was blighted, that was hurting,’ Mueller told the WSJ. ‘One of the first things we’re seeing is this public safety net coming down to protect everyone.’
Mueller brushed off suggestions that the tech giant is acting solely out of self interest.
‘Anyone who has the perception that Facebook is trying to protect themselves really doesn’t understand the situation,’ he told the WSJ. ‘That place is a fortress—they don’t need the Menlo Park Police to protect them.’
Some experts have their doubts.
‘That raises some potential conflicts that, if I was the chief, I am not sure I’d want to wrestle with,’ University of South Carolina criminal justice professor Geoffrey Alpert told the WSJ.
Alpert said he worries about skewed loyalties. ‘What do you tell your officers about how to treat people who work at Facebook?’ he wondered.
For it’s part, Facebook has called the $600,000 donation a no-strings-attached gift.
‘We just identified a need in the community,’ Facebook spokesperson Genevieve Grdina told the WSJ. ‘It’s not the “Facebook officer”; it’s the officer for the whole community.’
by Menlo Park C1N staff
the Wall Street Journal and Guardian contributed to this story.
Our first major project has been around education reform with Startup: Education in Newark, NJ. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done there, helping leaders like Governor Chris Christie and Mayor Cory Booker sign the most progressive teachers contract in our country, opening four new district high schools, 11 new charter schools and more.
Today, in order to lay the foundation for new projects, we’ve made a contribution of 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Together, we will look for areas in education and health to focus on next. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to have as positive an impact in our next set of projects.”
Really, this channel is about the community, by the community and for the community. It is self sustaining by local advertising. We don’t take Google, Bing or Face Book ads. We compete with them on the local level. Our news comes from local entities. We write our own stuff, shoot local video or use good community video and we are here.