The Citizen Police Review Board on Tuesday night authorized its executive director to approach Pittsburgh City Council about creating a permit system for private security companies.
The decision came the same day the review board released to the media a letter in which acting police Chief Regina McDonald told CRPB members the police bureau did not have the authority to enact several changes they suggested after reviewing a case in which a sergeant clashed with the owner of a private security company.
A report the sergeant wrote in that case made public long-standing tensions between some police officers and the companies that provide armed and unarmed guards for some housing communities.
According to testimony from both sides, Sgt. Eugene Hlavac stopped two men who were working for Gold Shield Security in the Hill District in September and questioned them about why they were on the property.
When Gold Shield owner Donald Wilson received a call from the employees saying they thought Sgt. Hlavac had asked them to leave, he went to the Zone 2 station. Mr. Wilson testified that Sgt. Hlavac cut him off, cursed at him and referenced his relationship with former police Chief Nate Harper.
Sgt. Hlavac has denied those allegations.
The CPRB, after hearing testimony from both sides, suggested enhancing training that would improve officers' communications skills, creating a database of private security companies and sharing it with officers so they know where the companies should be working and evaluating the feasibility of creating a permitting system for private security companies.
Chief McDonald said she's asked the bureau's training academy instructor to incorporate additional training into the bureau's training for supervisors this fall.
Just as it did at the time Sgt. Hlavac and Mr. Wilson encountered one another, the police bureau expects private security companies to contact the assistant chief of operations, who then notifies commanders at the neighborhood stations, who then inform their officers of the companies' existence.
Chief McDonald said that process has not changed since the CPRB recommendations and that the bureau did not have the authority to create a permitting process for private security companies.
The CRPB also suggested that the bureau reprimand Sgt. Hlavac for violating bureau policies regarding cooperation and conduct unbecoming of an officer. The bureau found "insufficient evidence" to sustain those allegations, according to Chief McDonald's letter.
Sgt. Hlavac declined to comment on the bureau's response.
Mr. Wilson said he was disappointed in the outcome and wondered whether anyone had viewed video taken from the Zone 2 station.
"My concern is that he can do this and just get away with it," Mr. Wilson said. "He did that to me and there's nothing I can do."
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Staff writers Rich Lord and Alex Zimmerman contributed.