State Police file reveals past investigation of Saline County sheriff

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Saline County's sheriff admitted Monday to his mistakes leading to his arrest over the weekend. Channel 7 News has learned this isn't the first time he's been accused of misusing alcohol.

Sheriff Bruce Pennington retired as an Arkansas State Trooper, but not before a lengthy investigation.

Pennington admitted to a room full of reporters Monday that he made a big mistake by getting into his vehicle intoxicated, which led to his public intoxication and resisting arrest charges in a restaurant parking lot.

What he didn't admit to was how accusations of alcohol use in the past nearly cost him his job.

"I'm human, I made a mistake in judgment, as we all have at some point in time," Sheriff Pennington said before he wrapped up the press conference he called himself.

Pennington owned up to his charges but appeared frustrated when asked about a past investigation for alcohol abuse while a member of Arkansas State Police.

PENNINGTON: "It was in '96."
REPORTER: "In '96 for drinking and driving on the job?"
PENNINGTON: "Yes, but that was never validated. That was false."

Records obtained by Channel 7 News dated March 1997 give a glimpse of accusations made against Sheriff Pennington by a fellow trooper.

Allegations included:

  • "On numerous occasions, Sgt. Pennington has driving his State Police vehicle while under the influence of alcohol."
  • "...arriving in uniform under the influence, I smelled the odor upon him."
  • "In 1992, he went to a fatal accident scene...intoxicated."

When asked about this, Pennington said that the trooper who made the accusations had a vengeance against him.

PENNINGTON: "He was trying to do anything and everything he could at the time by making accusations, but nothing was found."
REPORTER: "There was no penalty?"

An Arkansas State Police (ASP) file shows a reprimand was at least considered, though, with a supervisor recommending he be "reduced in rank to state police corporal, and that he be transferred to another troop," for "conduct that has definitely impaired both the efficiency and operations of the Arkansas State Police."

Pennington said during his press conference that after the ASP investigation, he needed a change.

"I went through an investigation and was placed on administrative leave, and then I retired. Bottom-line."

After that retirement, Pennington began working at the Saline County Sheriff's Office in 2001 as a patrol sergeant. Voters elected Pennington as sheriff in 2008 and re-elected him in 2012.