Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers
Grace and Mercy Transform Enemies Into Friends
Andrew Collins, a corrupt white police officer, told deliberate lies that sent Jameel McGee, an
innocent African American man, to jail for four years. The two men should be enemies. So how
did they become friends?
In 2006, Collins was a narcotics officer in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He wanted to get drugs off the
streets, but he also wanted a boost in his career, so he was gung-ho to arrest a dealer on the FBI’s radar. A case of mistaken identity led to Collins arresting McGee. But instead of admitting his error, Collins lied to the FBI, saying McGee was the real dealer, not the original target. During an interview with me about their Christopher Award-winning memoir “Convicted,” Collins said, “I lied in front of a judge, prosecutor, and jury. Jameel was eventually convicted on my words alone.”
From the day of his arrest forward, McGee recalled, “I became angry, bitter, upset…Nobody wanted to listen. They just threw me away.” A video that could have exonerated him wasn’t even looked at. Whatever affinity McGee had for God disappeared. He entered prison with thoughts of revenge. But McGee was also the father of a young son, and he wanted to be a part of his life. That love for his child helped him move beyond hatred and turn his life over to God.
God worked His way into Collins’ life, too, when his corruption was discovered and he faced a federal prison sentence. He explained, “When I got to the end of myself, the only person I had left was God...He caused me to start to walk through repentance.” Collins went to jail, but considers it a blessing. He said, “The only way my career was going to end was being caught or being killed. I’m happy that God allowed it to be through incarceration instead of through a box in the ground.”
When Collins’ crimes came to light, McGee was released from prison. Time passed, and Collins was released as well. The ex-cop got a job working for the Christian non-profit Mosaic, running a job-readiness training program. Since this was the same community in which he had worked, Collins knew that he would run into people he had unjustly hurt or sent to jail. He vowed to approach each one with humility and repentance.
Sure enough, McGee’s feelings of hatred were quickly reawakened when he spotted Collins in a park one day. He approached Collins with intent to harm, while Collins started apologizing immediately. McGee felt God’s presence pulling him back from revenge, so he said some nasty things to Collins and left, thinking they would never see each other again.
Several years later, Collins was set to mentor a new person looking for employment. In walked McGee. Collins apologized profusely again for what he had done in his past, but McGee responded, “It’s all good. God forgave it.” Humbled, Collins asked if they could “do the mentor thing.” McGee answered, “I think God wants us to.” The two men prayed together that God would bless their friendship. One week later, they were working together. McGee said, “There were so many things happening that I knew God was giving me confirmation that this is what I should be doing.” Now, the duo give talks around the country about repentance and reconciliation. God has been using their story, says Collins, “to motivate people towards love and forgiveness.” McGee adds, “I look back on how far God has brought me from where I was…I know His power – what God can do.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note FORGIVING OTHERS AND OURSELVES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org