A former volunteer in the Baltimore city and county police departments was arrested this week after police found stolen equipment in his Parkville home.
Baltimore City police searched Walter Oliver’s Parkville home on Tuesday looking for a gun.
Police didn’t find a firearm but what they found in the 18-year old’s home in the 1300 block of Halstead Avenue included gun holsters, a police radio, a bulletproof vest, uniform shirts, patches and other items police believe Oliver stole from Baltimore city and county officers. Oliver had been a volunteer with both the county and city police in an Explorer Program.
Oliver was charged by county police with three counts of theft, according to court records. He was released on his own recognizance.
The Explorer program is conducted as a partnership between law enforcement agencies and the Boy Scouts of America and has served as a training ground for young officers and an important tool for community relations.
Oliver, who joined the county Explorer program in November 2007, was suspended in March 2010 and was terminated in December 2010, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.
Anthony Guglielmi, a city police spokesman, wasn’t sure when Oliver joined the city program but said that the teenager was dismissed last month “because he was not a success here.”
Participants in the Explorer program must be between 14 and 21 years old, maintain at least a C average in school and, as the Baltimore County police website puts it, “be a responsible citizen with a good reputation and good moral character.” Applicants in Baltimore County must pass a written test and a background check.
“There are specific rules of behavior and other rules that they need to follow,” Armacost said. “They are representing the police department.”
As an Explorer, Oliver had access to rooms and lockers in the Towson precinct that typically would be off-limits to the public.
According to police, some of the items clearly belonged to officers, including a Towson precinct officer’s personal bulletproof vest, T-shirts with county police badges on them and gun holsters similar to those used by county police.
According to a police report, Oliver told investigators he stole red and blue strobe lights and an officer’s personal pair of handcuffs, although it’s unclear if those were recovered. Police also found handcuff pouches, flashlight holders and other police-related items but investigators are unsure if those were stolen.
Guglielmi, the city police spokesman, said that the items Oliver stole could have been used to impersonate an officer. But it’s rare, he said, for such a case to involve a non-sworn department member.
“It’s tremendously concerning,” he said. “We’re in a situation now where we’re seeing multiple incidents of police impersonation and multiple incidents betraying the trust that police officers have with the public.”