As if almost on cue, a party-goer at a Midtown club was shot overnight as Chief Richard Pennington (photo) tries to convince us that we’re better off after his seven-year tenure at the Atlanta Police Department.
The storyline might make sense if it weren’t for, well, crime. The dude that go shot early Saturday at Primal—the former WETBar and Blu that once cantered to the gays—was just the latest. There was, of course, the ill-fated raid in September at the Eagle, a dramatic jump in Midtown auto break-ins and still-unsolved murder and stabbing at Piedmont Park.
But that’s not stopping Pennington’s victory lap and efforts to paint the last few years of his leadership as anything but a flop. What may be most surprising in the profile from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is that Pennington was actually in his office for the interview. The chief has been away from the city for 260 days—the equivalent of an entire work year—while taking 20 work weeks worth of comp time.
When Pennington took charge in July 2002, the city was ranked the nation’s third-most violent. This year, it ranked 18th.
“Violent crime in Atlanta is down 39 percent; our overall crime in Atlanta is down 19 percent during my tenure,” Pennington said in an interview last week. And this year the city may have fewer murders than at any time since the 1960s, he said.
Pennington often comes across less as the chief of police and more as the CEO of the APD. He brought in a data-driven system that gives a real-time count of the arrests and crimes taking place, enabling police to react quickly to emerging trends. Crime rates fell. Those numbers, Pennington said, are what count.
The upside is that Pennington, who’s tenure started with much hope in 2002, comes to an end next month. He’s out when a new mayor comes in.
Photo: Jason Getz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution