Youth volunteer accused of stealing officers' badges, uniforms

Walter Oliver joined the Police Explorers youth volunteer program presumably because he had an interest in becoming an officer one day.

But along the way, authorities in two jurisdictions say, he began stealing equipment from officers who took him under their wing.

According to charging documents, he broke into Officer Joseph Tracy's locker and took a police radio; he took an expandable baton and a wooden espantoon from Officer Charles Connolly; when Officer Karen Crisafulli wasn't looking, he took her badge; and while on a ride-along with Officer Robert Hankard, Oliver took his Taser. After raiding his family's Parkville home, police say they found a trove of other items.

Oliver, 18, is charged with multiple counts of impersonating a police officer and theft in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, according to police and court records.

Said Anthony Guglielmi, the city Police Department's chief spokesman: "If he was interested in a career in law enforcement, he made some poor decisions. Now he'll never, ever hold a job in law enforcement here or anywhere else."

A relative reached at Oliver's home Friday said he would have no comment.

Police say the alleged thefts appear connected to Oliver's work as a security guard. He worked for a private company called Signal 88 Security, and surveillance video acquired by city detectives shows he wore Baltimore police gear while patrolling a treatment center in Southwest Baltimore.

Guglielmi said that doesn't make the thefts any less serious.

"These were multiple, malicious attempts at violating people's trust," Guglielmi said. The Explorer's program "is designed to foster relationships between police and kids, and he completely took advantage of that."

Oliver had previously been a member of the Baltimore County Explorers program, which runs under the auspices of the local Boy Scout Council and exposes youths between the age of 14 and 20 to aspects of law enforcement. Though participants are volunteers, they are subjected to a background check and have to follow rules that include maintaining a C average in school. Members participate in ride-alongs, help with traffic details and go on field trips, sometimes out of state, with police officers.

Elise Armacost, a Baltimore County police spokeswoman, said Oliver joined the Towson precinct's Explorers program in 2007 but was dismissed in 2010 for failing to follow rules; she declined to specify the violations. He later joined the city Police Department's Explorers program for the Southeast District.

Oliver was dismissed from the city program on Oct. 25 for stealing from Tracy's locker, according to court records. Detectives investigating Oliver learned that he had been fired from his private security job after he showed up with a holstered handgun, according to court records.

"Without authorization [for a handgun], our policy is immediate termination," said Tim Siman, a manager with Signal 88. "He was in violation of our company policies, and we handed the information we had to police. We are fully in cooperation with them."

Surveillance footage from the Pine Heights Treatment Center, where Oliver worked, showed him holding a gun and standing near a doorway with what appeared to be a police badge, police said.

When officers went to raid his family's Parkville home, they saw him assisting his grandmother inside while wearing a bulletproof vest, according to a city police report. Inside the home, police found scores of police-related items: dashboard lights, a BPD baseball hat, uniform shirts and "eight-point" hat, plastic handcuffs, a city police badge, and a gun belt. They also found a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun, two rifles, and boxes of ammunition.

In a separate report, county police say they recovered a bulletproof vest belonging to county Officer Scott Defelice that was valued at $1,150, as well as handcuffs taken from the locker of Officer Eugene Korn.

City police say he admitted taking the items. Authorities believe Crisafulli, who was pregnant and working at the front desk, was in the bathroom when Oliver took her badge. Connolly said in court records that he had locked up his possessions with a combination lock, and didn't know how they were taken.

Oliver was initially held on $50,000, but at a bail review hearing he was released on his own recognizance. His next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 28.

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