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Flagstaff police chief placed on administrative leave

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City officials confirmed Flagstaff Police Chief Dan Musselman has been placed on administrative amid questions about how the department handled a 2019 prostitution investigation. KNAU’s Bree Burkitt reports.

Musselman sent an email to his entire staff letting them know he was placed on administrative leave starting Monday.

He wrote in the internal email that “City leadership felt it was best to put me on leave during the investigation to remove me from the situation while there is an objective review of the activities leading up to the news story.”

ABC15 first reported last month that two Flagstaff police officers went undercover to massage parlors, took their pants off and allowed themselves to be fondled at least five different times as part of an investigation known as “Operation High Country Hydra.”

The 2019 operation was approved by Flagstaff police’s command staff, federal agents and Coconino County prosecutors.

Musselman did not say who would be conducting the outside review but estimated it would “take a few weeks.”

City officials said the purpose of the review “is to determine what policies and methodologies could be used, as best practices, in future operations should they occur.”

However, Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy told KNAU he is “utterly frustrated” by the lack of transparency in the case. He added that he was not made aware of the city manager’s decision prior to Musselman’s announcement.

The Arizona Post Officers Standards and Training Board, which oversees all police certifications, is also investigating after they received a “formal complaint.”

Deputy Chief Scott Mansfield will serve as the acting police chief in the meantime.

Bree Burkitt is the host of Morning Edition and a reporter for KNAU. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor for The Arizona Republic, covering public safety, law enforcement and crime. She is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and has additionally worked at The Spectrum & Daily News in Southern Utah and the Arizona Daily Sun. When not working, Bree can usually be found reading or out in the woods with her two dogs, Jill and Sonora.