Despite the ever-growing divide developing between the average American and this nation’s police force, there are still those, within a crooked system, who are able to find their way to a righteous path; yet, the righteous path is always wrought with the trials of those who have fallen along the way. In other words, it is not only the road less traveled, but in today’s society, it’s seldom traveled at all. That is unfortunately by design; we are all taught to fear, hate and mistrust, when all we truly need is love in our hearts. So the story of an odd couple who had cast aside their differences and chosen to walk together as a beacon of hope, brings light into a world being disguised in darkness.
In 2005, James McGee was walking down the road in Benton Harbor, Michigan, minding his own business, when to his horrifying surprise, a police officer abruptly accused him of dealing drugs. Then, without evidence of any kind, arrested him for the same charge.
“It was all made up,” said McGee.
Of course, jail cells are full of men who will pronounce their innocence to the end, yet the case of Mr. McGee is quite another story.
At first glance, many would make the unfair assumption that McGee was guilty of the allegations simply based on first impressions. Indeed, that is due to the inaccurate perception that minorities are responsible for the majority of drug related crimes propagated by the ceaseless and failed drug war that this nation is struggling to bring to an end.
To the surprise of many, former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins came forward with a shocking admission,
“I falsified the report,”
“Basically, at the start of that day, I was going to make sure I had another drug arrest.”
This might be shocking to read, yet the stark reality is that officers are pressured to deliver a certain amount of arrests each month, and if they fail to hit their “quota,” (whether or not they use that word) or choose not to unfairly and illegality arrest people, they become ostracized.
“I lost everything,” McGeee said. “My only goal was to seek him when I got home and to hurt him.”
Eventually the officer was caught and served a year and a half for falsifying police reports, planting drugs and stealing. Of course McGee was exonerated, but he still spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Time had gone by, and both men had attempted to move on with their lives. Yet to do so in the small town of Benton Harbor, which both men call home, can be a bit more challenging.
Last year, in a pure act of serendipity, both men ended up at the faith-based employment agency Mosaic, and began working side by side in the same cafe. It was within this tight workspace that a crooked cop and a falsely accused man eventually had it out.
“I said, ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry,’” Collins explained.
McGee, overcome with emotion told Collins,
”That was pretty much what I needed to hear.”
Today, the two are not just co-workers but have become close friends. McGee says his actions are not just for him, but for the betterment of society, alluding to the fact that humanity as a whole can take a lesson from their friendship.
“For our sake,” McGee said. “Not just us, but for our sake.” (Gesturing to the entire community)
One man who was pressured by a corrupt system to infringe on another’s rights, and another man who should by all rights retain some level of resentment at the very least, have together shown the world what forgiveness truly means. Their connection has moved passed friendship, and they have now become family.
McGee went on to discuss his faith and how he wishes to be an example and guide us to a kinder mankind. Collins and McGee now travel giving speeches together about what it means to forgive and the vast importance of forgiveness in our society. Redemption is possible through love.