In 2018, Carlisle Police Chief Taro Landis signed up to become participate in the “Bigs in Blue” program through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region.
“Before we started it, my wife said to me, ‘this is something you have to be commited to,” Landis said.
He was matched with Keemauree Smith, who was in middle school at the time and had specifically requested a Black mentor.
He’s now a high school senior and both he and Landis recall they got off to a slow start.
“He didn’t talk a lot,” Landis said. “We would sit there a lot and look at each other.”
“I got used to him, opened up, started talking about things,” Smith said. “I was wondering how long he’d be in my life. He lasted pretty long.”
He’s lasted five years, in fact. The two share meals. Landis visits Smith at his job at a local supermarket. They celebrate holidays, birthdays and when Smith’s bike broke, Chief Landis arranged for him to get a new one so he could still make it to work.
“I felt cherished,” Smith said of the bike. “They worried about me getting to work.”
Landis even attends teacher conferences.
“There were people in my life that poured good into me,” he said. “And what I’ve seen from my life is that pouring good into Keemauree results in good things coming out of Keemauree. So it’s a pretty cool deal.”
Smith’s mom, Nukea Finley, says her son was uncomfortable with the arrangement at first, but now talks about the chief “all the time.”
She says she’s seen an incredible transformation in her son and gives Landis a lot of the credit.
“I think Keemauree is headed on the right track,” Finley said. “It’s hard for young, Black African American males out here on the street period. I think that with the chief in his life, it kind of serves a purpose.”
Landis offers advice, support and friendship; now and for years to come.
Smith is “definitely” planning to keep in contact with his mentor after he graduates from high school this spring.
“I’m expecting that,” Landis said. “Every time when I see him and he looks me in the eyes.. I know he got something.”
Several members of the “Bigs in Blue” program will go Over the Edge on Friday, October 13 to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. They plan to join others in rappelling from a high rise building on Second Street in Harrisburg. For more information, click here.