Chief Joseph Massey of the Waterville Police Department speaks to reporters about a shooting in Waterville on Aug. 26, 2020. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — It appears most city councilors would be in favor of buying body cameras for the Waterville Police Department if the price were right.

The idea of purchasing such cameras arose most recently after a city review committee investigated the fatal shooting Feb. 11 of Eric J. Porter, 32, of Hartland by Waterville police Officer Paul Heath, 26.

On Friday, police Chief Joseph Massey released the Incident Review Team’s report, which determined Heath acted within policy when he fatally shot Porter.

The team concluded: “It might be beneficial for future investigations for the department to pursue the purchase of body cameras. However, it was noted that body cameras would not have made a difference in the outcome of this incident.”

The Office of the Maine Attorney General is conducting its own investigation into the shooting.

Several city councilors contacted Monday said they would be open to or support the idea of buying body cameras for police, depending on the cost.

Mayor Jay Coelho said he supports the proposal.

“When it comes to body cameras, I’m 100% in favor, and I think other people are, too,” Coelho said in a telephone interview.

Massey said Monday he could bring the idea before the City Council, but he wants to make sure he has done due diligence beforehand in ascertaining the cost for body cameras that would be of good quality. He also said he would want to pursue grants or other funding that could help pay for body cameras before going before city councilors.

Massey said he checked one company that, if cameras were to be purchased for every Waterville officer, would mean a cost of about $198,000. He said there are many companies that sell body cameras and it might be possible to find less-expensive technology, but it is critical to have cameras that provide good quality video footage and that would be appropriate for Maine’s cold winters.

“There’s a lot to consider when you talk about body cameras, the cost of body cameras and policies that would accompany the use of those cameras,” Massey said.

Having body cameras for officers is something the Police Department and city have discussed over the years, according to Massey.

“I’ve been a firm believer that body cameras are a very good tool for law enforcement,” he said.

City Manager Steve Daly said a lot of groundwork would have to be laid before buying body cameras.

“The cost is one thing — we’d have to figure out how to pay for it,” he said. “We’d also have to work with the union on that issue because it’s a change in working conditions.”

Asked if Waterville’s police cruisers have cameras, Massey said they do not and he had not explored their cost.

Meanwhile, Councilor Michael Morris, D-Ward 1, said if Massey and Deputy Chief William Bonney think it a good idea for city police to wear body cameras, he would “absolutely support it.”

“They run that department,” Morris said. “They know it better than I do.”

Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, said she is open to the idea. Oliveira said she and Massey are members of the Waterville Coalition, a group formed after George Floyd died last year while being arrested by Minneapolis police, and that Massey proposed the idea of buying body cameras at an April 1 meeting of the group.

“I am very open to it — I asked for more information,” Oliveira said Monday.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, is also a member of the Waterville Coalition who said he supports body cameras for city police.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Francke, a lawyer, said Monday. “The way I see it, it’s good for the police because it’s an evidentiary record that shows what they did was the right thing to do, and the evidence they’re collecting is good evidence.”

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, said he is all for buying body cameras if the cost is not too high.

“I don’t see it as a bad thing for the Police Department,” he said.

Foss said he has a camera in his own truck that would record activity if he were to get into an accident.

“These are the times we live in now,” he said.

Cameras, Foss added, “keep honest people honest. I think it’s a good defense to either side.”

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, and Councilors Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, and Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, did not respond to messages seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Heath, who has been on the police force for 3 1/2 years, was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, as is standard procedure.

Members of the Incident Review Team, appointed by Massey on Feb. 23, were Bonney; Chief James Willis of the Bar Harbor/Mount Desert Police Department; Lt. Jason Madore, commander of Maine State Police Troop C; Jerald Hurdle, a doctor of osteopathic medicine at Kennebec Medical Consultants; and Greg Marley, clinical director of NAMI Maine, a support, education, and advocacy group dedicated to building better lives for the one in four Mainers who are affected by mental illness.

The team’s report contains large sections that have been redacted because “there is a reasonable possibility that dissemination of the information at this time could interfere with the Attorney General’s criminal investigation of the incident,” according to the report.

The report explains that police originally responded Feb. 11 to the area near the Best Western Plus Hotel on upper Main Street, after receiving report “of a man who was in the parking lot confronting patrons with a big knife.”

After “prolonged interaction” with the man, later identified as Porter, police tried to deescalate the situation, and used “multiple deployments of non-lethal weapons,” according to the report.

Massey said previously Porter had charged at a police cruiser while brandishing the knife, and ran across Main Street and up the northbound exit ramp of Interstate 95 and onto the highway.

Officers reportedly found Porter sitting on a guardrail while still holding the knife. They were unable to persuade Porter to surrender, Massey said previously.

Ultimately, Heath fired his handgun twice at Porter, according to the review. One shot struck Porter, killing him.

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