NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The honky tonks that dominate downtown Nashville, along with other businesses, have hired their own private security force, but now, councilmembers have raised questions about what all their job entails.

“I think it’s not a great model to have just anybody be able to have what amounts to a mercenary police force,” said Councilman Freddie O’Connell.

Earlier this year, News 2 reported the Metro Nashville Police Department created what is being called the Entertainment District Unit, and it’s bringing together more than 30 officers, centralizing them in one area. In 2019, the department created the “Entertainment District Initiative” to address public safety concerns by adding additional officers who were staffed on a volunteer basis.

This week, the Metro Council approved a high raise for those working in the Entertainment District, in hopes of attracting people to the unit. There were also conversations focused on how it could improve retention within the department.

Now, business owners that sit along Broadway, have banned together to hire their own private security. According to Jack Byrd of Solaren Risk Management, the additional security officers are all certified, off-duty police officers and state troopers, who wear their own departmental uniforms and have arrest powers in Davidson County.

“I don’t know exactly what jurisdiction this would have been allowed to happen such that these officers if that’s what they are, private security professionals could issue citations or make arrests, or any of that,” said O’Connell.

He admitted he doesn’t know much about the private security firm or what they are tasked with, but he says the concern is around rules and regulations they have to follow.

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“Whether it be an officer involved in this PSO (Private Security Office) or they’re working at a bar, inside a bar, or they are working at a Kroger. If we are involved, we are going to evaluate the basis for the detention and citizens arrest and determine whether or not by law we can assist with that prosecution,” explained a representative inside a Metro Nashville Council Public Safety and Health meeting.

Since the announcement of the private security company, MNPD has told News 2 the department officers “are not being scheduled until an insurance discrepancy related to the PSO is rectified.”

Officers with Tennessee State University’s security have also been pulled. A university representative gave News 2 the following statement: “TSU plans to conduct a review of its officers’ off-duty assignments, including downtown Nashville-related work. We will have no further comment at this time.”

News 2 reached out to Solaren Risk Management for clarification. Byrd explained every person hired on has to be with a law enforcement agency, meaning not anyone can join. He also explained each one gets additional training.

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Still, some worry about what this will mean for downtown Nashville moving forward.

“We’re trying to offer both public safety but also appropriately legal and generally approved ways of doing it, that’s because I don’t think anyone wants to see a downtown where honky tonk owners are the ones with their own police force. That’s not the direction we want to move in,” O’Connell said.