“Brookdale was financially the best option as I was able to be a full-time student and begin my law enforcement career while attending college,” said Kayla Santiago, a Detective in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office assigned to the Special Victims Bureau and alumna of Brookdale Community College.
Santiago began her college education at Brookdale where she learned about all the different areas of law enforcement. “It is overwhelmingly useful to understand all areas of the law enforcement community,” she said. An example she gave was taking a Criminal Justice Class with a retired State Corrections Warden. “His experience within the Correctional Facility and teaching a class regarding Corrections was great even though I did not have an interest in Corrections,” she said. “As a detective now, I interact with Corrections, and it is important to have an understanding of what a Corrections Officer’s job entails.” She got that understanding from her classes at Brookdale.
After graduating with her associate degree in criminal justice in 2012, Santiago took advantage of Brookdale’s Transfer Partnership with New Jersey City University (NJCU). This partnership allows Brookdale graduates to transfer seamlessly to NJCU to complete their bachelor’s degree while staying in Monmouth County. “I feel that Brookdale prepared me well because the classes I attended taught me different areas of law enforcement.” She was so well prepared, she graduated from NJCU with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Before transferring to NJCU, when she was still a student at Brookdale, Santiago became a Special Officer Class I at the Belmar Police Department and was soon promoted to Special Officer Class II. In 2014, she became a full-time police officer in the Englishtown Police Department. She started her current position as a Detective in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in 2016.
Currently, Santiago is the lead detective for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office who assists all local police departments in Monmouth County with the Safe Place Program. This initiative is a collaboration between the police, businesses, social organizations, and schools that provides victims of bias or hate crimes with a safe space to call 911 for help. “Individuals requiring assistance will be treated with care, dignity, and respect from participating businesses, organizations, schools, and from responding police departments,” according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office’s website. The goal of the program is to provide victims with a safe place they can go to for help and assistance.
“Asbury Park, Long Branch, and Red Bank Police Departments were the first jurisdictions in our county to adopt the Safe Place Program,” Santiago said. In her role as lead detective for the program, she assists the local police departments with promoting the program and explains the program to businesses and organizations. “Now that Safe Place is county wide, we plan on having plenty more roll out events to spread the word and have more businesses and police departments participate.”
For more information about the Safe Place program, please visit mcponj.org/safe-place-initiative/. For more information about Brookdale’s Criminal Justice degrees, please visit brookdalecc.edu/criminaljustice.