Target 11: Incident raises questions about private security forces operating in Pittsburgh



PITTSBURGH - An alleged incident between a Pittsburgh police sergeant and a security guard has raised questions about private security forces operating in the city.

The Citizen Police Review Board found Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Eugene Hlavac, who is back on the force after being fired and then found not guilty of slapping his ex-girlfriend several years ago, engaged in conduct unbecoming to an officer.

However, the board also said Hlavac raised valid questions about private security forces operating in the city.

The Citizen Police Review Board recommended a written warning and counseling for Hlavac after a verbal confrontation with the owner of a private security firm that patrols a housing complex in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

“This centered on an issue of respect,” said Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board. “The complainant felt that he was disrespected.”

Target 11’s Rick Earle learned that the incident all began when Hlavac approached a security guard and told him he was not allowed to patrol this area even though he had a contract to provide services. The discussion escalated when the owner of the firm said Hlavac talked over him and told him to shut up.

“How he dealt with him was appropriate under the circumstances,” said Hlavac’s attorney, Phil DiLucente.

DiLucente said Hlavac was just doing his job and questioning the role of private security companies.

“Even this opinion says [private security companies’] jurisdiction and their venue is not understood right now and there needs to be clarification,” said DiLucente.

While the board criticized Hlavac’s confrontational and dismissive approach, the incident did raise some serious questions about private security forces.

The board said the city should create a registry of all private security companies in the city and give that to all police officers.

Earle spoke with the owner of the security firm and he said he supports a registry, but he said most of the officers in the Hill District already know the security officers are there.

The acting Pittsburgh police chief said she is reviewing the recommendations and will have a response within 30 days.