FREEHOLD – An Aberdeen police officer has been arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct and related crimes for separate actions he took while on duty earlier this year, acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Wednesday. The defendant, 34-year-old Philip M. Santiago, lives in Keyport.
Santiago is additionally charged with second-degree engaging in a pattern of official misconduct and two counts of fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence.
An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crime Unit revealed that in January 2021, Santiago intentionally tampered with a law enforcement drug test he had been ordered to take, rendering it unable to be processed.
The investigation further revealed that in May 2021, while on duty, Santiago deleted a video from a cell phone belonging to a suspect who was in custody, having just been arrested by members of the Aberdeen Police Department. The video had depicted the interaction between the suspect and the officers, leading up to his arrest.
Santiago was sworn in as a police officer in 2018, after previously serving as an emergency dispatcher in Aberdeen. If convicted on the charge of official misconduct, he could face a state prison term of 5 to 10 years, with a minimum of five full years to be served before the possibility of parole.
Santiago turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday, pending a first appearance scheduled to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court. He has been suspended by the Aberdeen Police Department due to these charges.He is being represented by Tracy Riley, Esq., with an office in Marlton.
The case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crimes Unit.
“The charges being announced today go beyond the mere breaking of laws – they constitute clear and repeated violations of the solemn oath this officer swore to uphold the interests of justice and serve the public good,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “Such conduct is patently and unequivocally unacceptable among our ranks in law enforcement, and does not represent the majority who serve with honor and integrity.”
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.