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Convicted: A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship

Come to hear the story of how two radically conflicted me chose to let go of fear and a thirst for revenge and instead chose to pursue reconciliation for themselves, their community and our racially divided nation.

Narcotics Officer Andrew Collins of the Benton Harbor, Michigan Police Department was looking to create a name for himself landing drug busts, and he was not above letting the rules get in the way. When Jameel McGee crossed paths with Collins on Feb. 8, 2006, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and found himself charged with possession of crack cocaine. Convicted: A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins with Mark Tabb is the powerful true story of how the course of these two men’s lives were forever changed because of a chance encounter in a community long troubled by racial strife.

McGee was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for a crime he did not commit. For the next three years, he had one thought on his mind. “I promised myself that if I ever saw that cop again, I was going to kill him. I intended to keep that promise,” writes McGee.

As Collins’s life began to unwind, he admitted to falsifying evidence and drug possession, which landed him in prison too, where he spent 18 months. Just one week following Collins’s guilty plea, McGee’s conviction was overturned. Having served four years, he was set free at last, but his life was left in shambles.

These two men—one white and one black—still living in the racial powder keg of Benton Harbor crossed paths again. First, they found themselves face-to-face at a church event in Broadway Park. Seeing an angry man headed in his direction, Collins braced himself for the punishment that was coming. With a battle raging inside him, McGee had to decide at this moment: Would he take violent revenge or would he peacefully walk away?

McGee’s life continued on a rocky path with bouts of unemployment and homelessness. The two men found themselves divinely put together again in a community rehabilitation program called Jobs for Life, working side-by-side at Mosaic Café. McGee was assigned to work with Collins, who asked McGee, “There’s a lot of history between us. Do you really think we can move beyond it all and move forward?” McGee replied, “Yeah, we gotta be able to do that. And if we can move forward, then maybe we can teach other people how to do the same.”

Convicted: A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship