It may look like just an old building on the outside. But the 15th District’s former police station at 5327 W. Chicago Ave. was much more than that. It’s just as old on the inside as it looks on the outside. No cheap sentimentality here, folks.
Set one foot in the old station, and it was like stepping back in time. The big wooden front desk, the old squeaky brown swivel chairs, cracks in the windows and hip-hugging narrow stairwells?”it was something out of Fort Apache, the Bronx or Hill Street Blues. But you weren’t going to see Paul Newman or Capt. Frank Furillo traipsing about.
The Chicago Avenue station was built in 1918. And baby did it ever look it. But whatever charm such old relics seemed to have for bystanders and onlookers often wore thin with those who had to work there.
About 250 officers were crammed?”literally?”in the 2-story Austin station. As times changed, the old 15th station remained stubbornly the same. Cops who were experts at fighting crime over the years had to add interior design to their repertoire. Parts of the building had to be converted over the decades.
The watch commander’s office near the building’s front entrance was converted years back from a parking-ticket office. The roll call room on the second floor?”where officers were supposed to meet before and after their daily shifts?”ended up serving more people than McDonald’s on a slow day. It doubled as a community meeting room, locker room for female officers and sometimes storage place for … whatever was found lurking in a dusty corner in the room.
This isn’t to say that old buildings and facilities don’t possess a certain charm. Wrigley Field on the North Side is a shrine, not only for rabid Cub fans but also for sports and non-sports gawkers alike. The old Sears Headquarters near Roosevelt and Homan has a certain presence, despite the fact that all that remains of the sprawling campus is its original 1906 administrative building and a few other edifices.
But when an old building can’t give you anything except headaches and heartbreaks, it’s time to retire the place and move on.
“[The old 15th station] had outgrown its usefulness as far as technology and size,” said recently appointed 15th District Commander Al Wysinger.
That’s what it really boils down to. If you can work better, timelier and more efficiently with a computer, then why are you still pecking away on that old typewriter? Speaking of which?”and keeping with the themes of police and cop shows?”do they have computers in the world of NYPD Blue? Why in God’s good name were Andy Sipowicz and the rest of the 15th Precinct squad typing their reports on typewriters? Typewriters?!?
It was nice to see a computer or two at the new Austin station. As the City and the Mayor like to remind us, “We’re fighting crime in the 21st century.” I don’t think it’s asking too much to provide today’s officers with space and equipment made in say, the latter part of the 20th century?
The new station at Madison and Waller was built to fight today’s crime. Digital fingerprinting, video teleconferencing, satellite maps, centralized remote heating and air-conditioning?”what time machine have we stepped into here?
It’s about time the playing field was leveled. The crooks had virtually the same type of technology that the Austin station now has. But as for the old 15th station, and the other stations citywide finally put out to pasture in recent years, you’ll always be remembered.