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INVESTIGATES: Controversial police training banned in 9 states is now welcome in Florida

A controversial police training company is now calling Florida home after being banned in nine states.

Street Cop Training calls itself the fastest-growing law enforcement training in the country. The company website states it’s “changing the world of law enforcement by properly educating police officers on what they can do.”

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The trainings have been called into question. It is banned in Minnesota, Missouri, Maryland, Illinois, California, Oregon, Nevada, Michigan, and New Jersey. However, it’s now welcome in Florida.

The company posted on Facebook: “…the company moved to Florida. It was nice to be welcomed with open arms and even encouraged to come here.”

THE 43-PAGE REPORT

New Jersey was previously the company’s headquarters, but the state pushed them out with a 43-page Comptroller report released last December.

According to New Jersey Comptroller Kevin Walsh, the training violated a myriad state laws and policies.

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The report states Street Cop Training “glorified violence and an excessively militaristic or ‘warrior’ or approach.”

The report refers directly to a six-day conference in October 2021 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It found more than 100 discriminatory and harassing remarks. It adds there were “repeated references to speakers’ genitalia, lewd gestures and demeaning quips about women and minorities.”

EXPERT OPINION

Action News Jax’s Meghan Moriarty sat down and watched some of the videos from the report of the controversial police training with our Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson. He’s a former Miami police officer and FBI instructor.

“One of the primary goals of teaching, instructing police, is to keep their attention,” Carson said “So, you tend to say things that you certainly wouldn’t want to say in public.”

Moriarty asked if Carson believes the conference videos teach aggressive, deadly, or dangerous tactics.

“What I’ve seen from snippets is something that I wouldn’t want the public to know I was watching or using as a training device — I wouldn’t want that,” Carson said.

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After the December 2023 report was released, Street Cop Training Founder, Dennis Benigno, posted an apology to YouTube. It said in part, “I personally take responsibility and apologize for any inappropriate or offensive language used by a few of our instructors in the 2021 training session.” Benigno was one of the instructors mentioned numerous times in the report.

Benigno was listed as one of the speakers for the Street Cop Training conference at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando in early May.

We reached out to Street Cop Training to ask how it changed the training since the 2023 Comptroller investigation. No one responded to our request.

LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT

Moriarty went down to the six-day, sold-out conference in Orlando despite our request for press credentials to attend going unanswered.

At the conference, we spoke to a Baker County deputy in attendance.

“I don’t agree with the statements made about the conferences that they’ve had. I’ve heard some of them,” Sergeant Michale Bodkin said. “[Some] saying that they incite violence. That’s not what we’re here for. It’s absolutely not and I strongly disagree with that.”

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Bodkin said he asked his agency to attend.

“We’re not out here to hide anything from the public,” Bodkin said. “We’re here to make sure that what we’re doing is for the betterment of everybody.”

The Baker County Sheriff’s Office did not get back to us with a comment about the number of deputies who attended.

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The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said it sent five deputies, including a supervisor. None of those who attended wished to be interviewed. A spokesperson sent us a statement instead:

“We are aware of the controversy with Street Cop Training. A few of our personnel were interested in the topics covered, and close proximity for training (Orlando). A supervisor was in attendance with additional senior members of the agency. They thoroughly evaluated the training and presentations and will be discussing future attendance based on their experience (to be determined).”

The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office said it did not send anyone to the Orlando conference. In a statement from a spokesperson, they said:

“We do not use any training associated with Street Cop. The company provided a demo for us last summer, but we decided not to use them.”

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The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said it did not send anyone to the Orlando conference, but some attended conferences in the past. They sent us a statement on Thursday.

“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was recently made aware of the allegations against the Street Cop Training organization. Prior to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office becoming aware of these allegations, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office paid for three separate officers to attend two different training sessions conducted by this organization. Those sessions, which occurred in April of 2021 and January of 2022, were one day training sessions related to interdiction and Florida case law. No policies or procedures of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office were modified based on the material covered in those training courses. As a general practice, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sends members to training conducted by outside organizations on a regular basis. Only when instruction is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and compliant with the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the State of Florida, will the material from an outside vendor be incorporated into our policies and procedures. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did not send members to the 2024 Street Cop Training Conference in Kissimmee and will not be utilizing Street Cop Training as a vendor for any future training.”

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office sent us a statement ahead of the conference. It did not send any of its deputies to the conference:

“We have not done any trainings with Street Cop Training. We are not planning to send anyone to conference and were not aware of this group until last week (April). We have worked with some private companies as well as FBI-LEEDA, FDLE and other government-based ones as well.

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The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said it did not plan to send or use any of Street Cop Training once when we reached out. Their spokesperson sent us a statement back in April:

“I am not aware of any of our men or women attending ‘Street Cop Training.’ We are not planning to send anyone to the conference that I am aware of. I have not attended any of their trainings. We do not currently use their online training videos.”

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said:

To my knowledge we are not affiliated with that program and do not have anyone at the conference.”

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