Guards from Comprehensive Security, Inc., maintain a watchful presence at concerts, construction work, conventions, and special events in Davidson County, Tennessee. The City of Nashville is based in Davidson, and Comprehensive has provided security for some of the music mecca’s biggest stars, including Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, and Dolly Parton.
“We primarily operate in Davidson County. We do some work in counties that touch Davidson County,” states Chief Executive Officer Loyd Poteete.
Poteete (whose name is pronounced ‘petite’) brings decades of experience to the business, having worked as a fire fighter, military policeman, and member of the Nashville police force. He is proud of his security team which includes roughly 244 armed officers and guards and roughly twenty-two unarmed guards.
Unarmed guards are only allowed to “observe, record, and report,” he says. They can testify in court if need be and are instructed to “notify local authorities if there’s something going on.”
Armed guards, who are generally retired or active police officers, can perform all the above duties but also have the right to detain suspects until authorities arrive. As a private security force, guards and officers are not allowed to make arrests, however.
Comprehensive Security guards and officers provide their services at a wide array of events and activities. “I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot of film work and special events. There’s a TV series called Nashville—we did all the security, armed, and unarmed, for that series from the pilot right to the finish. I have worked with dozens and dozens of country music artists. We have done a lot of commercials and concerts. I’ve done movies with Tim McGraw and Gwyneth Paltrow—so many films I can’t remember. There was a big convention here a few years ago called the Beachbody [Coach Summit]. They would bring in 25,000–30,000 people. My company was in charge of closing off Broadway, which is our main drag in downtown Nashville, so these people could get out on a Saturday morning and do a workout,” he states.
In addition to such high-profile assignments, Comprehensive also performs plenty of less glamorous gigs. Providing traffic control at construction sites, for example, represents the most common security service the firm renders at present. “We have a good presence on that and have been doing that for many years.”
Regardless of the sector or client served, Comprehensive provides around-the-clock security, seven days a week. Poteete also offers a human touch and strives to establish a friendly connection with his clients.
“I work to develop a relationship with companies. We provide good service; we take care of issues; we build a relationship. I am proud to say I have several contractors who will not do a job without us,” he says.
Comprehensive also operates its own fleet of vehicles. It has eleven patrol cars and four trucks, the latter of which perform double duty, patrolling streets and hauling equipment for certain assignments.
“We started furnishing our own traffic control equipment such as signs, barricades, cones,” he explains.
Poteete, now in his mid-seventies, has a history of hard work and a variety of first-responder positions. He had several jobs as a child, including running a popcorn stand and selling concessions at a music venue. As a teenager, he worked at a grocery store, and then took on a second job as a firefighter for a private fire department. He worked during the daytime in the grocery store then helped put out fires at night.
Shortly after finishing high school in 1965, Poteete was drafted by the military as the Vietnam War was starting to intensify. Before he could present himself to the draft board, however, he was seriously injured in a car accident. Two years later, the draft board decided he was sufficiently healed and he ended up working with the military police in Vietnam.
After leaving the army, Poteete joined the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department in July 1969. He served for thirty-one-and-a-half years, retiring in 2001. He worked for a time at a security company run by a friend then founded Comprehensive in 2010.
Given his impressive law enforcement credentials, Poteete has developed some best practices for his security guards including punctuality, honesty, and being courteous and helpful. Above all, he emphasizes the need to remain cool and collected, even in difficult situations.
“You have to keep calm and treat people with dignity and respect. I can honestly say that [as a police officer] I was able to go in and arrest people in crowds and not have to fight everybody. In thirty-one-and-a-half years, I was probably only in five fights,” he states.
Poteete extends this respectful attitude to the personnel at his company. Some Tennessee private security firms hire guards as contract workers, not full-time employees. This means less paperwork and payroll taxes for the business but fewer protections for the guards. Independent contractors typically receive limited compensation and liability coverage for workplace accidents and lawsuits, compared to full-time employees.
“Every person who works for my company is an employee. Therefore, I furnish liability insurance, workman’s compensation insurance, et cetera,” he says with a touch of pride.
He takes a careful, measured approach when hiring new staff for both armed and unarmed duties. “We look at their attitude; we look at their appearance; we look at whether they pay attention when we’re talking to them or if they try to get ahead of the game—if [they think] they know more than you do. Those are all factors that play into it.”
Comprehensive also wants to know about previous employment history and why a potential new hire left their last job. In the case of former police officers, Poteete tries to ensure they are not suffering from job-related burnout.
“If it’s an unarmed guard, they go to a training course that is sanctioned by the State of Tennessee Department of Insurance and Commerce, which governs security guards,” he says, noting that unarmed guards receive additional training in-house. As part of their training regime, armed guards face firearm licensing requirements and must qualify at a gun range.
While some workplaces are squeamish about hiring staff with visible tattoos, skin markings “are not an issue for us, as long [they aren’t] obscene,” he says. Still, Comprehensive is sensitive to client demands if the team is hired for an event and organizers do not want to see any tattoos on their security team. “We make sure the guards or officers have long sleeves or a jacket to cover them up,” Poteete states.
When COVID struck, early last year, Comprehensive implemented government mask mandates and other virus prevention protocols. While in-person concerts and special events were curtailed, construction was deemed an essential service in Tennessee, so work remained steady in this sector.
The company recently moved its headquarters to La Vergne, Tennessee after being based in Brentwood for many years. “Brentwood borders Nashville on the south side. La Vergne borders Nashville on the east side,” Poteete explains.
Regardless of where its headquarters are located, Comprehensive makes a commitment to supporting various charitable and community initiatives. Last Christmas, for example, staff, clients, and friends donated enough to pay for three pickup truck loads of presents for the local Toys for Tots holiday campaign. This is an annual event that the company supports.
He cites staff recruitment as the biggest challenge facing the firm moving forward. The issue is twofold: there is a relatively small pool of police officers or former officers from which he can hire armed guards. And of course, other private security firms are trying to recruit from the same small pool as well. Poteete has also run into challenges when it comes to hiring new unarmed guards.
Still, Poteete is excited about the future. While he has no plans to retire any time soon, he has taken steps to ensure corporate continuity. “If something should happen to me and I am unable to run the company from either illness or death, the company will continue to move forward under the direction and control of my son, Timothy Poteete,” he states. Timothy started work at the firm as a guard and currently acts as operations manager.
For now, Poteete remains firmly in charge. He is eager to see COVID disappear for good and life return to normal, with a steady stream of in-person concerts, conferences, and community events for his staff to guard.
“Five years down the road, I just want to get back to pre-pandemic [work] levels and have a viable company that can provide for its employees.”