In the early days of Franklin’s administration, finding a police chief became the new mayor’s top priority.
After a five-month search, Franklin said, “Richard Pennington had a vision of a police department in New Orleans which I believe will serve us well. A professional department, a well-managed department, a well-trained department, a well-compensated department, a well-equipped department, a department for whom there would be no question about the integrity of the operation.”
Prior to going to New Orleans, Pennington served 26 years with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.
In Atlanta, he shook up the department by creating a computerized system that tracked crimes, and by holding zone commanders accountable in weekly meetings.
But he also engendered criticism because of numerous absences, including being on vacation in Cancun during the 2005 Brian Nichols shooting in downtown Atlanta. During his tenure — he stepped down in 2010 at the end of Franklin’s second term — he was away 260 days.
In June of 2010 Pennington was admitted to the Shepherd Center for rehabilitation after he had suffered a stroke on Memorial Day.
After his stroke, Pennington made few public appearances.