The Desire Terrorist
During the nearly eight years of his administration, Chief Pennington made good on most of the reforms he promised when he took office. The murder rate dropped steadily over his first five years to a low of 159 in 1999. Toward the end of his term they began to climb again, but the overall crime rate in the city continued to decline throughout his tenure. Pay raises that he promised came through as well, at all levels.
Though continuing to arouse the ire of PANO and individual officers for his unrelenting stance on police details and other issues, Pennington was accorded hero and savior status by the New Orleans populace at large. At one point his name recognition was on a par with the mayor and his popularity rating even higher. He would walk into a restaurant for a casual meal and be spontaneously applauded by grateful patrons. On July 8, 1997, Pennington appeared on Court TV with Cochran & Company host Johnnie Cochran and was praised for the "remarkable strides" he made with the department.
Near the close of Marc Morial's term-limited tenure as mayor in late 2001, Pennington announced his candidacy for mayor. His widespread popularity made him the immediate frontrunner and he held that status over 14 other opponents for most of the campaign. However, two weeks before the February 2 primary, surprise endorsements in the Times-Picayune and Gambit Weekly for businessman and local cable TV executive C. Ray Nagin, quickly eroded Pennington's support. Nagin finished first in the primary with Pennington second and Nagin handily won the runoff a month later.
Pennington remained on as superintendent until May 21, 2002, when Nagin named his successor. A month later Pennington was hired as Chief of Police for Atlanta where he remains today.
Also in 2002, Eddie Jordan, whose team of assistant U.S. attorneys successfully prosecuted Davis, Hardy and Causey, used the case in his winning campaign to become New Orleans's first black District Attorney. Constantine Georges, one of the assistant U.S. attorneys prominently involved in the case, was mentioned as a possible successor to Jordan but the position went, instead, to an interim U.S. Attorney. The permanent slot has yet to be filled.
More than ten years have passed since the Davis case made local, national and international headlines. Murders have again started to climb in New Orleans and crime is once again the city's number one issue. However, the situation has not regressed to the low level it had reached in 1994. Measures are in place to safeguard, as much as possible, re-runs of the abuses that had run rampant at that time. And, in March 2004, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it had finally concluded its ten-year probe of NOPD and noted improvements made during that time.
Above all, morale and a sense of camaraderie seems to have returned to the department. In the fall of 2004, when a young black female officer was killed in the line of duty, her fellow officers held a live concert benefit for her children. The event was well attended, by whites and blacks alike, with some of the city's top musicians donating their time for the cause. A sizable amount of money was raised, including donations from the city's philanthropic sector.
"There's a whole new breed of officers [now]," Pennington said in his 1997 appearance on Court TV. "[They] don't want to work with those kind of rogue cops." That sentiment prevails to this day.