FREEHOLDA former Aberdeen Township police officer has been sentenced to nearly a year in jail for tampering with evidence on two separate occasions last year, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Friday.

The defendant, 35-year-old Philip M. Santiago, was sentenced by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Jill O’Malley to 364 days in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI), to be followed by three years of probation, with permanent exclusion from future public service in New Jersey.

An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crime Unit had revealed that in January 2021, Santiago intentionally tampered with a law-enforcement drug test he had been ordered to take by piercing it with the pin on the back of his police badge, 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 criminally charged and suspended from duty in September 2021, before ultimately pleading guilty to two counts of fourth-degree Tampering with Physical Evidence. He had been sworn in as a police officer in 2018, after previously serving as an emergency dispatcher in Aberdeen.

The case was handled by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crimes Unit. Santiago was represented by Michael Reilly, Esq.

 “Using one’s badge, a symbol of public trust, to break the law, is an affront to all law-enforcement officers who understand the duties and responsibilities that come with wearing the badge,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “There is no place in law enforcement for such conduct, and this defendant’s actions are not representative of the vast majority of officers in Monmouth County who serve with honor and integrity.”

“From the onset of this investigation, the Aberdeen Township Police Department worked in complete cooperation with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office,” Aberdeen Township Police Chief Matthew T. Lloyd added. “We have zero tolerance for any actions that are contrary to our core values as trusted public servants of the residents of Aberdeen Township and of the State of New Jersey as a whole.”