NEW ORLEANS - Richard Pennington was a dedicated New Orleanian in the truest sense: he loved his adopted city and put his heart, mind, and soul into making New Orleans a better and safer place for all.
When Chief Richard Pennington took over the New Orleans Police Department in 1994, the city was under siege. Violence gripped New Orleans, the murder rate had shot up to 424 murders, and the very people, police officers, charged to protect us were often guilty of heinous crimes such as murdering witnesses and protecting drug dealers.
With the full cooperation and assistance of Mayor Marc Morial, Chief Pennington stepped in and took control of the situation. He instituted a number of departmental changes:
- Created the Public Integrity Division, ridding the NOPD of bad officers.
- Took a data-driven approach to policing, using statistics to define hotspots and where police protection was needed.
- Put officers back on foot patrols and produced a robust community policing strategy.
- Increased salaries, which brought in new officers and more recruits.
Most importantly, Chief Pennington delivered lifesaving results with the murder rate dropping to 158 by 1999 at a time when the overall size of the city was much larger.
As New Orleans Police Chief he consistently decreased violent crime, built trust with the public and NOPD, boosted morale with the rank and file, and gave peace of mind to our residents.
We need to honor Richard Pennington for he gave us so much.
Richard Pennington was fearless in taking on tough challenges and made it his mission to clean up NOPD and make it a cohesive, crime-fighting organization. What the Chief required was a mayor, who believed in his efforts, supported those efforts and gave him the independence necessary for the job. Mayor Marc Morial made it a top priority to reduce our city's violence.
Let the memory of Richard Pennington inspire us that we, too, can calm our mean streets and create a bond between our police officers and the communities they serve.
As we say in New Orleans, Richard Pennington has gone on home, and surely the best way to celebrate this man's life is to be guided by his legacy and put into practice the lessons he taught us.