August 23, 2014

Columbia police chief resigns week after investigative report

Columbia’s interim police chief has resigned, two weeks after state investigators cleared him of any wrongdoing but accused him of hindering their investigation.

Columbia's interim police chief Ruben Santiago (FILE)

Columbia’s interim police chief Ruben Santiago (FILE)

Ruben Santiago submitted his resignation to city manager Teresa Wilson on Thursday, according to a release from the city. Wilson said she relieved him of his duties when the business day ended at 5:00 p.m.

No reason was given for the resignation, although Santiago has had a turbulent past few weeks.

Wilson said Maj. Melron Kelly will serve as acting chief until a new permanent chief is hired. Wilson hopes to make that hire next week.

“I have made this comment several times before, but I cannot thank the men and women of the Columbia Police Department enough for their dedication and commitment to the department, our citizens, and to the City of Columbia.” Wilson said in a statement.

Santiago took office after previous chief Randy Scott resigned last May. Scott cited post-traumatic stress at the time, but State Law Enforcement Division documents reveal Scott admitted to FBI and SLED agents that he had carried on an affair with a subordinate and had checked into a rehab facility for alcoholism and depression.

That investigation began last year, after a former captain accused Santiago of concocting a scheme to plant phony drug evidence on an assistant city administrator. Santiago denied the claims and investigators said they could find no evidence of criminal activity. However, the final report released last week accused Santiago of misleading investigators about a recorded conversation between himself and that captain.

Santiago was not among the three finalists to be the next permanent chief. Wilson plans to choose between Col. Gregory Reese with the Air Force Command at Paterson Air Force Base in Colorado, former Richmond, Virginia Police Chief Bryan Norwood, and current Huntington, West Virginia Chief of Police William Holbrook.