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Flagstaff Police Chief put on leave after ABC15 looks into massage investigation

Posted at 8:20 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 01:22:54-04

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — ABC15 has learned Flagstaff Police Chief Dan Musselman has been put on administrative leave following our investigation into how the department conducted an undercover massage operation in 2019.

The state's police oversight board is also investigating the employees involved in the months-long undercover stings.

Chief Musselman sent an email to his entire staff letting them know, "Beginning Monday, August 1st, I have been placed on administrative leave."

He went on to write, "City leadership felt it was best to put me on leave during the [outside] investigation...while there is an objective review of the activities leading up to the news story."

Watch Zach Crenshaw's full follow-up investigation on Chief Musselman being placed on leave tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC15.

The chief did not mention who was conducting the outside investigation, but 'estimated' it would 'take a few weeks.'

At the time of publishing, the Flagstaff City Manager's Office, and its communications team, have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy and members of the City Council said they were unaware of the chief's administrative leave and the outside investigation until ABC15 reached out for comment.

"I am frustrated with the lack of transparency on this issue," said Deasy, over the phone Wednesday. "I was not aware of the city manager's decision...and I have not received any of the records I requested last month, regarding this operation."

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZPOST), which oversees all police certifications and revocations, is also investigating the operation after receiving a 'formal complaint.'

The Board's director told ABC15, via email, that his team is "working with the agency to obtain investigative material."

As ABC15 first reported in July -- two Flagstaff police officers went undercover to massage parlors, took their pants off, and allowed themselves to be fondled at least five different times.

Experts tell ABC15 that state law clearly outlines that as illegal.

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

Watch the initial, in-depth investigation online here.

Wednesday night, the Flagstaff City Manager, Greg Clifton, emailed ABC15 the following statement:

“The City is arranging for an outside consultant to review the protocol and procedures that were followed during the sting operation three years ago.  The purpose of the review is to determine what policies and methodologies could be used, as best practices, in future operations should they occur.  The review is not being conducted as an investigation of individual officers involved in this particular operation.

With respect to your inquiries related to Chief Musselman and his temporary leave, this is a non-disciplinary action taken at my direction. It is further noted that it is the City’s practice not to comment on personnel matters when they do arise.”

The city manager did not answer our questions about who was hired to do the outside investigation/review and if any other police department employees have been put on leave during the investigation.