stop terrorism

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office will issue new guidelines on police training after the “Know Your Enemy” counter-terrorism seminar for law enforcement was conducted in Ocean County last week.

“The private training program that took place in Ocean County last week clearly was not appropriate training and is not the type of training we want our police officers attending,” said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman. The guidelines will be sent to all 21 county prosecutors, who are the chief law enforcement official in each county.

On Nov. 2, Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian-American who bills himself as a former Muslim terrorist turned Christian, spoke to more than 60 law enforcement officers for three hours about his views on Islam.  The in-service training session was arranged by a private police vendor at a cost of $109 per officer and sponsored through the Ocean County Police Academy, which is under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy and a deputy state attorney general sat in on the “Know Your Enemy” class after objections were made by the New Jersey Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in advance of the session. Mastronardy said he received hundreds of emails both in support and in opposition to Shoebat, in the days before the appearance. But he did not pull the plug on the session.

During his presentation in Lakewood, Shoebat told officers that they should be actively monitoring Muslims in their communities. He advised the class that they ought to be suspicious of any Muslim taking a martial arts class as this person may be in training to be a terrorist, Mastronardy said. The Asbury Park Press reported on the session Monday

Aseltine told the Press that because of such inappropriate advice, the Attorney General’s Office will be communicating with county prosecutors and working with their offices to make sure that a clear message is sent to police departments throughout the state: Officers should only be attending training programs that are fully appropriate to their role in the community and to good law enforcement, Aseltine said.

“Good law enforcement means community policing, which depends on police officers fostering and maintaining a relationship of trust with all segments of the community,” Aseltine said.

James R. Sues, executive director of CAIR, said this was just the response from the Attorney General’s Office that his organization wanted.

“That is an excellent outcome, that is the kind of thing we were looking for, especially given that it was the lack of guidelines that resulted in the kind of training that happened last week,” Sues said.

Mastronardy has come under criticism for not pulling the plug on the seminar when Shoebat’s controversial views and questionable credentials were first brought to his attention. Before the seminar, the sheriff received an email from Sues that called upon the academy to “disassociate itself from this event” and deny in-service credit to attendees. The email referred to Shoebat as “perhaps the nation’s most notorious Islamophobe.” Shoebat has not responded to a request for comment.

Mastronardy insisted Tuesday that he had no authority to cancel the event because the speaker had been booked through a private police vendor that does business with the academy. The vendor “COPS,” an acronym for “Courses Offering Police Specialization,” is owned by Jackson Township Police Detective Mitch Cowit, who has not responded to a request for comment.

Although the academy is under Mastronardy’s command, the sheriff said the only step he could take at that late hour was to order that the class be moved off county property – which he did. The class took place at a church in Lakewood.

“It was not up to us,” Mastronardy said. “(The academy) didn’t get paid for the class and (the academy) didn’t pay for the class.”

Nevertheless, the sheriff conceded that the matter could have been handled better by his office. The class should not have been advertised as in-service training for law enforcement officers using the academy’s brand. Mastronardy said last week that the academy will do a better job of vetting guest speakers booked through third parties.

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Photo of Michael DeRose Michael DeRose

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey…

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey, the Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of various labor unions and their members. Michael has extensive experience defending and fighting for members of law enforcement and other public employees facing adverse disciplinary action, such as termination or suspension from employment. He also frequently argues before New Jersey’s Appellate Division on behalf of his clients.

A large portion of his practice is also devoted to contract negotiations on behalf of union clients, representing such clients in grievance arbitration/ contract disputes, and otherwise advising union leaders on labor and employment matters.  Michael also has significant experience in the realm of interest arbitration on behalf of the firm’s law enforcement and firefighter unions. As a result of the firm’s robust labor and employment practice, Michael regularly appears before various state agencies, such as the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, the State Health Benefits Commission, and NJ PERC. In addition to representing labor unions and active employees, Michael also represents retirees before the Division of Pensions in disability retirement applications, both ordinary and accidental disability retirement, in pension forfeiture actions, and in other miscellaneous pension disputes. He also counsels private business and their principals in contract and employment law, in addition to representing their interests in civil litigation. Michael has a track record of obtaining favorable outcomes for his clients and treats each everyone of them on an individual and particularized basis in accordance with their needs.

Before joining the firm in August of 2015, Michael was an associate counsel at a civil litigation firm out in Trenton, New Jersey, where he principally focused his practice around employment law and tort claims litigation. Prior to that, he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Honorable F. Patrick McManimon, Mercer County Vicinage, from September of 2012 to August of 2013, where he attained significant experience in the realm of alternative dispute resolution having mediated well-over one-hundred cases, primarily related to commercial and residential landlord/ tenant disputes and contract/ business litigation. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2012 after graduating from the Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. In 2007, he earned his Bachelor of the Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Kean University where he was a member of the Kean University baseball team and vice president of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Michael is admitted to the New Jersey State Bar, the United States Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, and is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.