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.