Facebook raises eyebrows by paying nearby cop's salary

Facebook is "friending" law enforcement near its company headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

For a company worth about $200 billion, a donation to the Menlo Park police department was not going to break the bank, but it is raising some eyebrows. Facebook is now funding the salary of Mary Ferguson, an 8-year veteran of the Menlo Park police force, CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports.

The social network giant is putting up $194,000 for her pay, benefits and related costs for the next three years. She will focus on at-risk youth in the area, and helping businesses plan for emergencies. Menlo Park Police Chief Bob Jonsen says Facebook pays the bills, but that's all.

"So their role is strictly the funding aspect of it," Jonsen said. "They have no control over her responsibilities, her duties, that is all under my authority. And it's working out very, very well."

Facebook moved to Menlo Park two years ago, and its campus already boasts a variety of services for its employees; everything from a barber shop to bike repair.

But the neighborhood near where the company plans to expand has a higher crime rate than other parts of the city. So Facebook also funded a $200,000 police substation that had been closed due to budget cuts.

Both Facebook and Mary Ferguson reject the idea that she is the so-called "Facebook Cop."

"I actually haven't been called the 'Facebook Cop' to my face very often," Furguson said. "I understand it because they are technically paying my salary but I'm still employed by Menlo Park."

Facebook told CBS News: "The sub-station and police officer in Menlo Park was an identified need that we're happy to support. This is part of our continued effort to be a good neighbor..."

University of Southern California law professor Michael Chasalow said there is cause for concern.

"How many other companies are we gonna let do this?" Chasalow asked. "What if an unsavory company decides they want a police force? Can Enron have a police force?

For now, most folks in Menlo Park are giving Facebook a big thumbs up for sharing some of its wealth.