BRIDGETON — Five female Police Department employees allege being sexually harassed for years by a department sergeant, and then undergoing retaliation from his twin brother, also a department sergeant, for reporting the incidents.
The women, in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court on May 26, list more than 70 incidents of alleged harassment by Angel Santiago.
Neither Angel Santiago nor his brother Luis could be reached for comment.
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The plaintiffs allege Angel Santiago rubbed his penis against their hands “as they rested their arms and hands on the arms of their chairs.” Other allegations include that Santiago scratched the top of their breasts, tried to kiss them, claimed to be having sex with co-workers and used his cellphone to show “videos of girls with whom he was engaged in sexual activity.”
The plaintiffs also allege that Santiago showed them a picture of his penis, which he nicknamed “Captain Hook.”
Listed as plaintiffs in the case are Deena Bertolini, an 11-year Police Department veteran who was promoted to sergeant in May, and Veronica Cheeseman, Carolyn Dover, Deanne Laing and Kelly Queen. Cheeseman is a detective, Laing and Dover are dispatchers, and Queen is an administrative secretary.
Arthur Murray, the women’s attorney, said the Police Department undertook an internal affairs investigation into Santiago’s activities around July 2013. He said his five clients were “interviewed as part of the process.” Santiago was suspended without pay in October 2013, he said.
Murray said Santiago’s case proceeded through the state’s court system and that some settlement was reached. He said he did not know the details of the settlement.
Police Chief Michael Gaimari said Santiago “has not been in a working capacity for the department” since August 2013.
Murray said that while the Police Department eventually disciplined Santiago, other sergeants saw the alleged incidents but never reported them to their supervisors. The alleged sexual harassment went on “for years,” he said.
The plaintiffs further allege they were subject to retaliation from Sgt. Luis Santiago, who is currently a Police Department employee. The five women allege the retaliation occurred during and after the Police Department’s investigatory and disciplinary actions involving Angel Santiago.
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The plaintiffs allege Luis Santiago used a “demeaning tone and attitude” against, and made false complaints about, female Police Department employees who reported his brother’s actions. Other alleged actions by Luis Santiago involved his refusal to allow “other police officers who were free (to) cover calls for female police officers who testified against his brother.”
The city is also listed as a defendant for failing to properly protect Bertolini, Cheeseman, Dover, Laing and Queen from the alleged actions of the Santiago brothers.
Gaimari said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit but that the Police Department, “in conjuction with the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, did conduct an investigation into the matter.”
City Solicitor Rebecca Bertram could not be reached for comment.
The 2013 internal affairs investigation was not the only investigation by law enforcement involving Angel Santiago.
Santiago was charged with simple assault following a domestic violence incident that occurred in Vineland in March 2012. Details of the case, and its outcome, were unavailable.