Street Cop files for bankruptcy after promoting 'likely illegal' tactics in NJ training

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About 240 New Jersey police officers will have to be retrained next month, more than two years after they attended a 2021 Atlantic City conference that state officials said maligned women and minorities, glorified violence and likely violated state laws.

A Feb. 18 memo from Attorney General Matthew Platkin directed all current law enforcement officers who in any way participated in the October 2021 sessions by Street Cop Training to attend retraining on March 14 in Trenton.

Street Cop Training, an in-person and online police training company that recently filed for bankruptcy, has been listed as a prohibited training agency in nine states, including New Jersey, Illinois and California.

Police officers who attended the 2021 training by Street Cop will have to undergo more training in March.
Police officers who attended the 2021 training by Street Cop will have to undergo more training in March.

Founded in 2012 by former police officer Dennis Benigno, Street Cop Training was the subject of a State Comptroller's Office investigation after the 2021 conference.

Released in December 2023, the report detailed numerous instances of unconstitutional policing tactics, discriminatory behavior, glorification of violence and denigration of women and minorities during the training event.

“We found so many examples of so many instructors promoting views and tactics that were wildly inappropriate, offensive, discriminatory, harassing, and, in some cases, likely illegal,” acting Comptroller Kevin Walsh said in a December 2023 statement.

Instructors advocated for stopping motorists without reason and illegally prolonging stops. Some trainers advocated for pulling over motorists without cause and using pain as a "weapon" during police work. Some also made lewd comments about women and advised attendees to engage in flirtatious behavior, and one even showed a meme of a monkey after discussing pulling over a 75-year-old Black man. Benigno, a former New Jersey police officer, talked about wanting to die in Colombia surrounded by cocaine and “girls” who are “not as wealthy and need to do things to make money.”

According to bankruptcy filings, the conference drew more than 1,000 attendees, one of whom sent a recording to the press. State officials said the roughly 240 New Jersey officers who attended came from 77 municipal police departments, six county agencies, one interstate agency and four state agencies. The majority of those departments and agencies spent public funds on the conference, they added.

The retraining program scheduled for March 14 at the Trenton War Memorial will include legal training on the Fourth Amendment and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination provided by the Division of Criminal Justice, state records show. Survivors of law enforcement shootings will also be there to speak about their experiences.

Of the New Jersey police officers who attended the 2021 conference, not one complained about the training to their agencies, according to the 2023 report. Benigno has denied advocating for anything inconsistent with quality policing and suggested that isolated excerpts do not reflect the overall quality of Street Cop's training programs.

Street Cop Training investigaton: Platkin says comptroller's report on police training may require 'further action'

In a video posted on social media in response to the 2023 report, Benigno said his company does “important work” and that since the conference it had worked to "create quality control measures to foster a cooperative environment among our trainers and professional staff." A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Benigno and Street Cop against the acting state comptroller saying they were victims of harassment and retaliation.

The bankruptcy filing says bans on attendance by nine states, including New Jersey, resulting from the post-conference fallout had an impact on the company's finances. The filing shows that Street Cop's financial troubles were exacerbated by a $210,000 wrongful termination lawsuit and a $500,000 software failure.

There were also instructor resignations and warnings from the state Attorney General's Office about potential penalties amid probes into the conference.

Street Cop's bankruptcy claim was filed in Florida, despite the New Jersey addresses listed on its website. The company has trained more than 25,000 officers annually and made more than $3.5 million in revenue in 2021 and 2022, according to its bankruptcy claim. It has nonetheless reported $211,000 in unsecured debt as of early 2024.

Comptroller's report: Hundreds of cops attended training that 'undermined' key police reforms

The December 2023 report that called for retraining attending officers noted that at least 46 states have spent funds on Street Cop Training. The October 2021 conference used more than $75,000 in public funds, though there were incomplete and inaccurate records regarding expenditures, the report said.

In addition to calling for the retraining of officers who attended the conference, the report urged legislators to establish licensing requirements for private police training programs and urged law enforcement agencies to seek refunds for the training.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Street Cop Training files for bankruptcy as NJ cops face retraining