Pittsburgh PD, Security Work to Resolve Dispute

April 25, 2013
Both police officials and private security workers would like better direction on how officers and private security guards should interact.

The Pittsburgh police sergeants and private security workers testifying at a Citizen Police Review Board meeting Wednesday night agreed on little -- except that they would like better direction on how officers and private security guards should interact.

The meeting stemmed from a Sept. 29, 2012, encounter between Sgt. Eugene Hlavac, who was working in the city's Hill District station at the time, and workers from the Stanton Heights-based Gold Shield Security.

Gold Shield Security has a contract to work in several locations, including some in the Hill District. On the night of the encounter, Zone 2 police received a report of a stabbing and asked Gold Shield Security officers Ron Fialkovich and Scott Betush if they had seen anyone matching the possible suspect's description.

Shortly after that, Sgt. Hlavac drove through the area and stopped the Gold Shield workers. He testified that he did not normally work in that section of the zone, was not familiar with Gold Shield and thus had concerns about what men in uniforms were doing in the area.

The sergeant asked them what they were doing on the property and about their uniforms, which he thought too closely resembled police uniforms.

From there, the stories diverge.

Security officer Fialkovich said he left the conversation thinking Sgt. Hlavac wanted them to depart, so he contacted Gold Shield owner Donald Wilson, a retired city police officer who is friends with former police Chief Nate Harper. The sergeant said he did not ask the security workers to leave.

Mr. Wilson said he went to the Zone 2 station to try to resolve the matter and emphasize that his workers were not acting as police officers and had a right to be there. He said Sgt. Hlavac cut him off every time he tried to explain himself, cursed and referenced his relationship with the former chief.

Sgt. Hlavac testified that he did not curse at Mr. Wilson. He said he allowed Mr. Wilson to explain his thoughts but that he would have to make it quick because he had other duties.

Mr. Wilson said he called Chief Harper because the sergeant brought up their friendship. He later filed a complaint with the CPRB alleging that Sgt. Hlavac violated bureau policies outlining cooperation with other agencies, conduct in relation with the public and conduct becoming of an officer.

The board is set to deliberate this weekend and expects to release its suggestions to the police bureau early next week.

"The police bureau doesn't have a policy on how to deal with this or maybe this would have been easier to handle," said Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of the police union.

Mr. Wilson said he would also like to see the bureau -- whose administrators could not immediately be reached Wednesday night -- create clear rules.

Copyright 2013 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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