Career criminal alleges police harassment
Ex-con says RNC have made him a recurring target because of his lengthy record
A St. John's man with a long criminal record claims he's being harassed by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, which is interfering with his efforts to turn his life around.
Gordon Bishop, 28, admits he is no saint. He's spent 13 years of his life in custody and amassed a 12-page criminal record.
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"I've got one assault on a police officer, I got one assault when I was 14, I got an assault when I was 18, and I got [a] dangerous operation of a motor vehicle [conviction]," he said.
"The rest are all property-related ... break and entry, thefts, mischief, not obeying court rules."
But Bishop says the RNC is targeting him relentlessly for crimes he didn't commit.
He says his problems with the law started at an early age.
"When I was bipolar when I was younger and I wasn't diagnosed, then I wasn't maintaining myself in school, and my ADHD, and all that stuff on top of everything caused me to act out and led me to the wrong crowd to grow up with," he said.
Bishop said he then got into using and selling drugs like OxyContin and cocaine. He is now on parole and living in a halfway house.
'I'm always afraid'
Bishop says the police are hindering him from changing his lifestyle.
"Every time they come after me, repeatedly, and they question me, and everywhere I go I'm pursued," he said.
"I'm always afraid, I'm looking over my shoulder because the police are going to come arrest me or pursue me in some manner and I have to keep track of everywhere I go and every day — it's not fair."
Bishop has filed an official complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission.
The force is waiting for the commission to complete its investigation before commenting on Bishop's claims.
'Never committed the crime'
Bishop maintains he has been singled out when the police investigate crimes.
"I was charged with a home invasion back in 2009. I never committed nothing, I never committed the crime. But as soon as my name was mentioned they come down and they arrested me at [a hotel] when my mother was there," he said.
"They slammed me off the counter, they didn't identify themselves — they didn't do anything like that."
Bishop was referring to a highly publicized home invasion on MacKenzie Street in St. John's on April 12, 2009, in which three men entered a home and threatened a couple with a gun.
Bishop was found not guilty in that incident.
Earlier this year, he went on trial with another man for robbery and assault.
"I was down at the halfway house and they sent down and said my name was actively pursued in an investigation, which got my parole suspended.
"I wasn't charged, I didn't have no due process. I wasn't even charged until 31 days after I was incarcerated," Bishop said. "I wasn't questioned, they didn't ask me where I was to, they didn't do nothing. They just sent me to jail for no reason."
He was set to spend seven months in Her Majesty's Penitentiary instead of the halfway house after having his parole revoked, but was found not guilty in that case, as well.
Sprayed officer with bear mace
Bishop said he was on drugs when he used bear spray on a police officer in 2009, which he believes may be at least one reason why he's being targeted.
He pleaded guilty to the incident and was sentenced to three yearsin prison. That's why he's currently on parole.
According to Bishop, the officer he sprayed confronted him last year.
"That officer come down June 6th at 4:30 in the morning at the halfway house, woke me up out of bed yelling and screaming at me — I didn't know what do to," he said.
"I apologized when I woke up, but that caused me so much anxiety and so much stress that I couldn't eat — I couldn't sleep."
'Nowhere to go'
Bishop said the RNC has crossed a line, from surveillance to intimidation.
He said he recently signed out from the halfway house in order to visit the house of a friend who had children, and three officers and two social workers showed up at the door after he arrived.
"[They said] they are going to take her kids from her, saying that I'm a violent person and all this stuff," Bishop said.
"I have nowhere to go now, so I'm left either for my two hours to walk the streets or to go to an environment that's involving drugs or involving people that are active in criminal organizations, and I can't do that so I'm left to walk the streets every day for two hours."
'I don't see it happening'
Ron Fitzpatrick, who through the community group Turnings has worked with inmates and former inmates for more than a decade to help integrate them back into society, said he has never heard of or received complaints about RNC harassment.
"Nobody ever came through these doors since I'm here," he said. "I'm involved with this organization 13 years now, and I'm not saying it's not possible, because human beings, as long as you’re a human being, anything is possible."
Fitzpatrick also finds it hard to believe there would be an RNC officer seeking retribution for the bear mace incident.
He said the constabulary would not allow that kind of behaviour.
"In my opinion, I don't see it happening because I don't see it being tolerated," Fitzpatrick said.
However, Bishop maintains he is unjustly the focus of excessive police attention.
"I literally think they're out to try to put me behind bars," he said.
"Everything I try to do to better myself in the future gets hindered or stopped in some way, in some aspect."
With files from Glenn Payette