Menlo Park: Official opposed to Facebook paying for new cops

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A Menlo Park councilman said the city is going about a plan to fund a new police unit the wrong way.

The police chief brought a proposal to the council in February that would see Facebook funding a unit made up of five officers and one sergeant for the first five years, at an estimated cost of $9.1 million. The new unit would be positioned in the bayfront area, much of which consists of Facebook offices, and would operate on weekdays during regular business hours. Mayor Kirsten Keith endorsed the proposal at a recent community meeting she conducted with Chief Robert Jonsen in the Belle Haven neighborhood.

Councilman Ray Mueller said if Keith thinks the city needs to accept the gift from Facebook to fund a fourth police unit, the city should go back to the negotiating table. He said it’s primarily the number of Facebook employees coming in that is driving the need. By 2022, the daytime population in the bayfront area is expected to rise by more than 6,500 people.

“If (we) think we didn’t get enough in-lieu sales tax from Facebook and that’s why we need funding for the police unit (we need to) go back and renegotiate,” he said.

He is “strongly opposed” to the proposal, saying it puts the integrity of the police department into question.

“Pretend (Facebook) is a resident who lives on your block and they say, I want more police officers for my big house, so I’m going to give more money for the city to patrol my house,” Mueller said. “Do I really think I’m going to be treated the same as the neighbor who just gave the money to the police officers?”

His preferred approach would be to amend the current development agreement with Facebook to receive additional money. Then the city could explore the proposal to add police officers on its own terms. Jonsen in a report to the city this week said the department will need to hire 17 additional patrol officers by 2040, a 35 percent increase, to deal with all the coming growth in Menlo Park.