A private police training agency has asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling requiring it to comply with a state watchdog’s investigation into police departments that used public money to send officers to a controversial conference.
Investigators in the Office of the State Comptroller last summer subpoenaed documents from Street Cop Training to learn who attended the conference, how they paid for it, and what the 1,000 attendees learned there. The five-day event, held at an Atlantic City casino in October 2021, featured Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren and other conservative speakers.
Street Cop fought the subpoena, calling it a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unjust search and seizure of private records. The firm also counter-filed records requests, demanding documents from the comptroller’s office to learn whether investigators there sought records from any other police training vendors.
An appellate panel in November ruled against Street Cop in its subpoena fight. Last month, Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy rejected Street Cop’s records request, writing: “It would severely undermine OSC’s investigative powers and prerogatives to force it to open its investigative playbook to a private vendor presently under investigation.”
This week, Street Cop appealed the records denial. Separately, the appellate court stayed their November decision that required Street Cop to comply with the comptroller’s subpoena until the Supreme Court decides whether to weigh in.
Street Cop’s attorney celebrated the stay as good news for its fight against “government overreach.”
“The ruling to stay the subpoena signals that the Appellate Division recognizes that the Supreme Court may be concerned about government overreach and the constitutional right to privacy, and we hope it is the first step in holding government agencies accountable and ensuring transparency about their activities,” attorney Jonathan Cohen said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the comptroller’s office said they couldn’t comment on pending legal matters.
The conference, which cost $499 to attend, made national headlines after Lahren and other speakers cheered police, dismissed police reform efforts, blamed anti-police sentiment on mainstream media, and encouraged police violence. “Be the calmest person in the room, but have a plan to kill everyone,” one speaker told the audience, according to the Washington Post.
Street Cop is the largest police training organization in the nation. It has trained more than 40,000 law enforcement officers since it was founded in 2012 by Dennis Benigno, a former Middlesex County correctional officer and Woodbridge police officer.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX