Forgiveness of this crooked cop should not absolve this systemic problem
The story of this young man who forgave a police officer whose deliberate lie put him in jail for 4+ years should anger all, yet the resolution is hopeful. I was of two opinions after watching this story. The first was the warm and fuzzy feeling towards Jameel McGee, who forgave the crooked cop, Andrew Collins. The police officer took away 4+ years of his life. The second was a mortifying anger. But first the story.
CBS's Steve Hartman tells the story of Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collings manufacturing a drug arrest against Jameel McGee. The Herald-Palladium reported the following about the story.
The story of forgiveness and redemption between two men in Benton Harbor is going national, with Steve Hartman from “CBS Evening News” interviewing them Monday for an “On the Road” segment expected to air this Friday.
“I came here for a story about forgiveness,” Hartman said before interviewing Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins at Cafe Mosaic in Benton Harbor. “It’s a thing I like to explore because I find it fascinating. I sometimes have a hard time forgiving my sister-in-law saying that I’m stubborn, which I guess proves her point. So anytime I hear somebody forgiving something that just seems unbelievable to me, I like to investigate it.”
Collins is a former Benton Harbor cop who admits to fabricating a story that put McGee in federal prison for four years. He said he started out as a good cop but by the time he was caught five years later, he was a full-blown dirty cop.
“I planted drugs on people,” said Collins, who spent 18 months in prison for his crimes. “I took money from people. I took money from the city that I worked for. I was the lowest of low. In my mind now, as I look back, I was as low as you can get as a police officer.”
The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office ended up dismissing more than 50 cases Collins had worked on.
In short, it turned out that the crooked cop and McGee ended up working at the same place. Collins apologized. McGee forgave him. They became friends. And they do talks on forgiveness together.
So after the fuzzy feeling why am I angry? I understand that CBS's Steve Hartman wanted to do a feel-good story, a story of redemption. But one must acknowledge the lack of proportionality in the penalties in this case.
The crooked cop caused over 50 cases to be dismissed. He likely inflicted pain on scores of lives. For his crime, he served 18 months in jail. McGee for his false crime of selling a small quantity of drugs spent north of 48 months in prison.
Even as Collins had a record as well, he became a manager of the cafe that McGee would be working at going forward. A conviction for those like McGee is generally a Scarlett Letter where gainful employment is concerned.
Neither within the story by Steve Hartman nor The Herald-Palladium article by Louise Wrege is this gross partiality explored. It would not have detracted from the redemptive nature of the story to point out those realities. It would have made McGee's forgiving of Collins that more powerful.
What happened to Jameel McGee is not at all uncommon. It is ironic that what gets coverage is the fact that he forgave one crooked cop instead of the sum-total of systemic problems that this one incident highlights but went completely ignored.