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New Jersey to re-train police officers who attended Street Cop Training instruction

New Jersey police departments to re-train officers who went to Street Cop sessions
New Jersey police departments to re-train officers who went to Street Cop sessions 03:24

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) - How did a former New Jersey police officer, who was disciplined three times in five years, go on to train thousands of officers while charging local governments thousands of dollars?

That is one of the questions CBS News Philadelphia is asking as we uncover just how many officers from the Philadelphia area attended this controversial training.

It all started last year when an investigation by the New Jersey State Comptroller found hundreds of police officers went to a training in Atlantic City that glorified violence and taught discriminatory practices.

At least 15 police departments from South Jersey sent officers to this training, and now, they might all have to be re-trained.

CBS News Philadelphia is also learning more about the company, Street Cop Training, which puts on the classes, and its CEO.

The New Jersey Comptroller's Office describes the comments at the 2021 Street Cop Conference as "lewd, disparaging, discriminatory and glorifying violence."

Trainers can be heard using vulgar and violent language in the videos posted by the comptroller.

CBS News Philadelphia discovered the founder of Street Cop, Dennis Benigno, was a street cop himself in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey. Public records revealed Benigno was disciplined by the department three times in five years.

In 2015, three women accused Benigno of using excessive force and racial bias. Attorney Cynthia Hardaway represented the women.

"What he was doing in that training session is giving insight into what type of officer he is and how he feels," Hardaway said.

Woodbridge Township paid $50,000 to settle before it went to trial. Benigno never admitted wrongdoing. Woodbridge police say he retired from the department at age 33, weeks after that lawsuit was filed.

Then, he went on to create Steet Cop Training.

More than 15 police departments in South Jersey had representatives at the training, according to the report, including Atlantic City, Cherry Hill and Pennsauken.

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin says the 240 New Jersey cops who attended that 2021 conference will be re-trained.

"I've made it very clear to all 38,000 sworn officers and their leadership that no one should be attending Street Cop Training in the state of New Jersey," Platkin said.

Street Cop Training is promoting upcoming training sessions around the country on its website.

Benigno did not respond to CBS News Philadelphia's interview request. He did post a video in response to the comptroller's report, apologizing for the offensive language and denying that Street Cop ever taught unconstitutional policing.

When the findings from the investigation were released last year, the comptroller said there's no oversight or regulation over private police training. Now, Platkin is looking into that.

The police chief in Edgewater Park told CBS News Philadelphia new training for all those who attended the 2021 conference could start as soon as March.

The Pennsauken chief said the department already re-trained the six officers they sent to the conference.

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