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

WATERVILLE — Longtime police Chief Joseph Massey plans to retire at the end of November, a move that comes as the department may undergo a review that could recommend sweeping strategic changes.

Massey has been with the department 36 years, the last 15 as chief.

“It’s that time,” Massey, 69, said Monday. “I’ve had a great, rewarding career, and we all get to that point.”

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Meanwhile, Waterville city councilors on Tuesday are scheduled to consider awarding a contract for up to $40,000 to International Association of Chiefs of Police to perform a review of the police department, which “will initiate the process of charting a future growth and development course” for the force. Tuesday’s meeting to consider the contract will be at 6 p.m. via a Zoom link on the city’s website.

Mayor Jay Coelho said Monday that the review and the chief’s retirement present an opportunity to rethink the department’s leadership structure and gear efforts more toward community policing.

“I think at this point if we want to see a difference in our police department and how it’s run and the types of things we want to see, like community policing, now is the time to get input and feedback from people who are experienced in running police departments,” Coelho said.


He said it is important for a police department to have the resources it needs and be ingrained in the community. Where Waterville’s department once had a police officer dedicated solely to the South End and school resource officers in schools, it now has neither because of budget constraints. The department has done a good job with what it has, but it does not always have the manpower to deal with issues such as drugs in school, which makes it hard, according to Coelho.

Waterville has 31 officers, including the chief and deputy chief.

“I think our men and women do a fantastic job,” Coelho said of police. “They put their lives on the line for us. They need more resources.”

Waterville officer Blake Wilder removes a rifle from the back seat of a car on June 11 during a “gun giveback” event in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

City Manager Steve Daly said he knew Monday of Massey’s announcement, but it came as a surprise.

“I’m disappointed by it, because I was looking forward to continuing to work with him,” Daly said, “but he has to make a decision that’s good for him, and I respect that.”

He praised Massey for his commitment to the city. “I’ve worked with a lot of police chiefs during my career, and Chief Massey is right at the top of that list,” Daly said. “He’s a man of outstanding integrity and is totally committed to the Waterville Police Department and the city.”


Coelho, the mayor, said he thinks the structure of the police department is outdated, which can create a situation in which there is “a chief and a deputy chief on an island by themselves.” Coelho said he thinks the deputy chief position should be eliminated and a captain’s position should be instituted to create a “triangle of people all informed as to what’s going on,” so information can be relayed to other officers and there is more communication within the department.

“I think the structure of our police department is going to change,” Coelho said. “I think it is going to change for the better.”

He said someone will have to fill in as interim chief when Massey retires. Deputy police Chief William Bonney is due to retire in December and Detective-Sgt. Lincoln Ryder in May or June next year.

“That may change, now that they found out the chief is leaving,” he said.

Waterville police Officer Ryan Dinsmore walks Feb. 24 with Riggs, a German shepherd who was at the time the city’s new police K-9, at the Waterville police station at 10 Colby St. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

Asked how the chief’s position would be filled, Coelho said it behooves the city to do a nationwide search.

Coelho made it clear the changes he favors in the department are not a result of Massey’s performance as chief.


“He’s always struck me as a stand-up person,” he said, “someone who listens and someone who is deeply concerned about his community and for that, we should be rolling out the red carpet for the years of service that he has given us as we look toward the future.”

Coelho said that as soon as the council OKs the contract with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the city will begin the review process, within 6 to 8 weeks.

“At this point, the city should do whatever it can to ensure we have a viable police department going forward,” he said.

Joseph Massey, police chief of the Waterville police department, takes a knee in solidarity with protesters to police brutality on June 1, 2020, during a gathering at the police station in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Massey said the International Association of Chiefs of Police often does evaluations of police departments “from top to bottom,” reviewing operations, scheduling and any concerns or issues. It is a good way, he said, to get an independent evaluation and report to be used as a blueprint for moving forward in areas that may need to be addressed.

Joseph Massey is seen in 2007 standing outside the Waterville Police Department’s former headquarters in the basement of City Hall after being named the new police chief. Morning Sentinel file

In Waterville, staffing and recruitment have been challenging as employees move on to other departments that may pay more money or offer signing bonuses for up to $20,000, according to Massey, who said recruitment is a struggle for departments statewide. Also, young people are not choosing to go into law enforcement as they did in the past.

The department is down seven people, with the communications sergeant having left to go to work for Belfast Police Department, Massey said. Sgt. Jennifer Weaver was in that position.

Staff shortages puts pressure on employees, who work overtime to fill gaps and that impacts their work environment, home life and personal time, Massey said.

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