Jeffrey T. Bishop, the son of a minister who was a police officer for 25 years and has lived in Cherryfield since high school, once aspired to be a leader.
But instead of being elected sheriff of Washington County in 2006, when he lost a three-way Republican primary, Bishop now is accused of having led a double life. Over the past four years he worked for three different law enforcement agencies but also allegedly committed multiple drug- and gun-related crimes, sometimes while on duty.
Bishop, 53, was indicted last month on 35 charges for alleged crimes that date from late January 2017 to February of this year. The charges range from unlawful trafficking in drugs and unlawful furnishing of drugs to stealing guns, receiving stolen property and stealing drugs.
He is accused of trading drugs in his Calais Police Department cruiser for what police have called “a non-monetary form of payment” from a 39-year-old Baileyville woman, and of giving drugs to her teenage daughter in a high school parking lot.
But his indictment and a bail hearing last month brought to light that Bishop’s alleged drug dealing from his cruiser wasn’t his first alleged offense connected with his job as a cop.
He also is accused of stealing 16 guns from seven victims, including two pistols believed to have been taken in a 2016 burglary at the Gouldsboro town office. He is accused of stealing nine of those guns after responding to two calls while on duty as an officer and leaving with firearms he found at each scene.
Bishop’s alleged secret life came to light after police said he was seen Feb. 1 — two days after he retired from his police job in Calais — giving drugs to a 17-year-old girl in the parking lot of Narraguagus High School in Harrington. The drugs, which were inside an unmarked prescription pill bottle and were intended for the girl’s mother, included 27 acetaminophen and hydrocodone pills and three baggies of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than heroin.
The Baileyville woman later told police that Bishop said he could get 600 to 700 pills if needed, though he would have to “move some funds around in his bank account” to buy them, according to a police affidavit filed in court.
Four days after the high school meeting, police executed a search warrant at Bishop’s home and seized 110 hydrocodone pills they found in his police duty bag in his bedroom, and more than a dozen stolen guns, according to court documents. He was arrested that same day in the same high school parking lot where he allegedly had given drugs to the teenage girl four days earlier.
Because of his background in law enforcement in Washington County, Bishop was taken to the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton, where he later made $75,000 surety bail and was released, according to court records. He was arrested again after being indicted on additional charges on May 19, but was released again five days later after he came up with an additional $25,000 in bail.
More specific details about how and where Bishop allegedly stole the drugs, and why he has not been charged with burglary in connection with any of the alleged gun thefts, was not available this week.
Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who is prosecuting the case, said Wednesday that Bishop allegedly stole nine guns while responding in a law enforcement capacity to a crash scene and later to a reported burglary. He is accused of taking one pistol he found at a Jan. 25, 2017, car crash in which he assisted the sheriff’s office, and then, on April 19, 2018, of taking eight other firearms from a house in Milbridge when he responded to a reported burglary.
Risler said those details in the case were discussed publicly at Bishop’s bail hearing in May. He declined to comment on other details in the case, saying that it was the policy of the attorney general’s office not to comment on evidence that has not yet been revealed in court documents or discussed in court.
Officials with the Maine State Police and the municipalities of Calais, Gouldsboro and Milbridge did not respond or declined to comment when contacted for more information about Bishop’s case.
Attempts to contact Bishop this week were unsuccessful. A phone number listed for him in court documents was no longer in service, and he did not respond to a message sent to an email address he had listed in the resignation letter he sent to the town of Gouldsboro in 2015.
Bishop’s defense attorney, Chris Largay of Bangor, did not respond to a request for comment.
2006 sheriff’s race
Fifteen years ago, Bishop’s prospects were decidedly different when he was working as a deputy for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and decided to run for the Republican nomination for sheriff. Incumbent Sheriff Joe Tibbetts decided not to seek reelection, and five people threw their hats in the ring to replace him.
Bishop, who was then 38, told the Bangor Daily News at the time that he was the son of a minister and had graduated from the now-closed Maranatha Christian School in Addison in 1986. A police officer since 1995, he said the sheriff’s department had “always been” his passion and, if elected, he would pursue a community-policing approach that would involve working with schools and addressing the root causes of domestic violence and substance use.
“We need to start talking to kids even before they reach fifth or sixth grade,” Bishop said during a 2006 campaign appearance. “We need to get involved with the problems that they are perceiving, such as bullying at school or even violence and addicted parents at home.”
Less than two months later, after he came in third in the GOP primary, Bishop’s brief political career was over and his law enforcement career was in jeopardy.
Days after the June 13, 2006, election, a state police trooper saw him throw a political sign belonging to the GOP primary winner into the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield. The sign had been erected on land his grandparents owned for years, before his grandmother sold it, and she died on the day of the primary, Bishop later told the BDN. The pressure of his election loss and her death got to him, he said, and he threw the sign in the water.
Bishop was charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and theft, but later was acquitted of those charges and instead convicted on a lesser count of attempted criminal mischief and fined $100. Initially, he was fired by Tibbetts, but after months of legal wrangling between his union and the county, he was given a separation agreement and $10,000 in back pay.
Having previously worked as a police officer in Baileyville, Ellsworth and Jonesport, Bishop then left law enforcement entirely for a time. When not working full-time in law enforcement, he helped to support himself by working as an electrician, according to former employers and court records, and also sought freelance security and investigative work through Wolf Security Services, his own one-man operation.
But nearly eight years later, Bishop was recertified as a police officer and got back into law enforcement when he was hired to work as a part-time patrol officer in Winter Harbor. He worked there from late February 2014 through mid October 2015 but was fired again — this time for reasons that have not been disclosed.
Danny Mitchell, Jr., chief of the Winter Harbor Police Department, worked with Bishop at the time under then-Chief Michael Walsh. In response to a recent Freedom of Access Act request for public documents in Bishop’s employment file, Mitchell confirmed that Bishop had been fired but declined to say why, saying that all the documents in Bishop’s file are confidential.
Bishop simply moved on, getting hired and resigning from a series of law enforcement jobs in eastern Maine over the next five years.
While he worked as a cop for Winter Harbor, he also worked part-time for the neighboring police department in Gouldsboro, from August 2014 to August 2015. After leaving those departments, he worked as a guard at Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport from October 2015 to May 2017. He then worked full time as a cop in Milbridge from October 2017 through August 2019 before leaving for the full-time patrol position in Calais that he resigned from in January, when he said in his resignation letter that he “decided to go out on top.”
The nearly three dozen charges he faces include 24 counts of theft and receiving stolen property in connection with 16 specific guns, 15 of which police recovered when they searched his home on Feb. 5.
Eight of the guns — three rifles, two old style black powder rifles, a shotgun, a revolver and a western-style pistol — were stolen from a Milbridge couple in April 2018, when Bishop worked for that town’s police department. Two others, both Glock pistols, were stolen from the Gouldsboro Police Department, and six other firearms were stolen from four other victims, according to Bishop’s indictment.
Jamie Denbow, 45, of Harrington — another former police officer who worked for several Down East law enforcement agencies — has been charged with one count of receiving stolen property in connection with an AR-15 rifle that Bishop is accused of stealing from the Milbridge couple, but which was not found at Bishop’s house. Denbow allegedly later sold the rifle to a state game warden who has not been publicly identified by law enforcement officials.
In all, Bishop is facing 29 Class B felony charges, each of which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, if he is convicted. Each of the four Class C felony charges filed against him carries a possible punishment of up to five years incarceration and a $5,000 fine, while each of the two Class D misdemeanors he faces is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.