OK, the police station is an obsolete pit

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

The cop shop: A trio of Wednesday Journalists were at the Oak Park Police Department Friday to talk through access to information issues with LaDon Reynolds, the still new, by my standards, police chief and several of his colleagues.

A fruitful discussion. 

Not one to miss an opportunity, though, the chief urged us to stay on for a tour of the department's facilities in the basement of village hall at Madison and Lombard. He even invited Village Manager Cara Pavlicek to join us.

Admittedly I have not toured the police space in decades. And I assume we were invited because the editorial page of the Journal has been, at best, lukewarm in recent years as talk has percolated about the need for a new police station. It is not disrespect to our police department, which is well above average. Our concern has been about cost and taxes. 

With property tax angst rightly rising, how many construction projects — village government, park district, high school, elementary schools — can taxpayers absorb? And my parallel question, how bad can the police department be? It's only 46 years old. Built, obviously, at the same time as the "new" village hall in 1974.

Well, folks, Oak Park can have a long debate over taxes and what is affordable, but after Friday's tour, I have to say there is no debate the police station is dismal, obsolete, overcrowded and not built for anything resembling modern policing. Further, because a new facility has long been contemplated, the existing station has seen virtually no upgrades for what appears to be decades. Reynolds was excited to show off two bathrooms and the women's locker room that had been modestly refurbished in the past couple of years. That's it. 

Office spaces for detectives, training, records are woefully cramped. The shooting range, state-of-the-art in the 1970s, no longer functions. Nothing flows logically, resulting in logistical issues of separation when victims and alleged perpetrators are both in the facility. The hallways are filled with mismatched metal cabinets used for storage. Officers' lockers are not deep enough to hold boots. There is virtually no meeting space, no community space.

And that doesn't even get to the issue that everything is 1970s brown and, of course, being in the basement, there is not a single window.

Gutting a working police station would be difficult but not impossible. Building a new facility on the south end of the village hall campus is an option but may not be big enough. The price tag on any significant updating is in the tens of millions.

I certainly had my eyes opened. Would urge, though, that any discussion of a major fix should also include a thorough-going public and positive discussion about policing in Oak Park. Modern policing, more respectful engagement, more community-based, would require what sort of police station? God knows, something far different from the current grim facility.

CPD's interim chief: Instructive to look at the comments made in a speech Monday by Charlie Beck, Chicago's interim police chief. He is looking to flood neighborhoods with officers doing active outreach to young people as a way to bring down violence. He describes community policing "on steroids" as the essential method of building trust. Ideas I'm betting Chief Reynolds would be open to discussing for Oak Park. 

Honor and connection: On a number of fronts genuine connections are growing between Oak Park and Austin. Yes, it took 50 years — a half century — to begin moving beyond the fear and the suspicion that has captured all of us on the Greater West Side. That's what America's preoccupation and avoidance on race metastasizes into.

So the news this week that the Leaders Network, an alliance of West Side ministers, will present its 2020 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Beloved Community Award to Rabbi Max Weiss and the Oak Park Temple congregation is great and good news. Weiss, a leading member of the Community of Congregations and now a board member at the Leaders Network, has been building bridges and bringing the social justice fight for five years now. 

Powerful bonds, growing understanding and respect, and passion for people are growing this small miracle of connection.

Contact:
Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 22nd, 2020 7:00 PM

So, it is official. we can impeach Dan Haley as Editor of the newspaper without electing him. However, wouldn't it be a harsher punishment to retain him as editor of the newspaper?

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 19th, 2020 9:02 AM

@ Richard Willis: I hope the words "in perpetuity" are used in the Boards past statement, which I don't doubt,. because the citizens will judge the worth of the word of the Board. Last I heard, with the staff cuts at The Village Hall, there were empty or misused offices up stairs The Police portion of the then new Village Hall was a problem from he start and no one did anything about the issues. I was a police officer who moved into the new building. if memory serves me correct, there twelve parking spaces along two of the walls of the underground garage parking for 24 squad cars. The only problem was that the PD had 38 cars. Neighborhood complaints led to management putting out the order that all squad cars will be parked in the underground garage, using the center aisle for additional parking. The problem is that roll call an officer was assigned a squad car by number. Sometimes that called for removing and then replacing as many as eight squad cars to get to the numbered squad car assigned to you.. We minor malcontents used the Coach Bum Phillips rule, "there are only two bad football players one who to be told what to do and one who will only do what he is told" and we joyfully abided by the directive. Many of us low lifes suggested that we patrol officers should take the first empty squad car available. The directive was removed. By the way upper management had assigned parking spaces in the underground garage.No one on the staff counted the number of squad cars and designed a garage big enough to park the cars in. Proving once again, the gold braid majesty of the hat worn by upper management is not a measure to the brain power inside the majestic hat. Since retiring, I miss the comedic aspect of being an Oak Park Police Officer.The place was like Vegas, every night a comedy show somewhere.

Richard Willis  

Posted: January 18th, 2020 11:41 PM

"Building a new facility on the south end of the village hall campus is "NOT" an option". At the time Village Hall was built, the Board committed that the "open land" to the south would remain park space for neighborhood children to use in perpetuity. There is space available on the1st and 2nd floors of Village Hall for the police department to expand. District 97's ever growing expansion plans has already consumed limited open space at school sites. Destruction of even more Oak Park "open space" is not an option.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: January 17th, 2020 10:07 PM

Gosh, how could I have possibly misunderstood your use of the word, Jack?

Jack Davidson  

Posted: January 17th, 2020 4:18 PM

William Dwyer: verb: impeach; call into question the integrity or validity of (a practice).

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: January 16th, 2020 5:44 PM

I compare this situation to the various companies I worked for. One of them had ratty offices, but would do anything for their field staff who was out with the customers. Others had very beautiful fancy offices with lavish desks and facilities. The ratty company made billions and thrives today. The fancy office ones don't exist anymore.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: January 16th, 2020 10:02 AM

Well, the short answer... Jack ... is first you have to elect him to public office before you can impeach him. Which would require him to actually stand for election. The long answer isn't worth my effort to comment on your silly snark.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 16th, 2020 1:19 AM

Identify what is in the 2/3 rds of the basement. because the police department only occupies a third. Meeting rooms upstairs. No windows protect from bombs or escapes. Who cares about color the police need to be out on the street and not inside the station. If you must, throw a paint party and have the citizens volunteer to paint the place on weekends. Expand into the unusable shooting range. Build an interior stairwell from the west wall existing upper management offices of the PD and make a staircase up to the ground level of the village hall and place upper management offices up there closer to their bosses, the Village Manager. Use empty west wall management offices for office space. Go back and locate expansion plans for the building from the 1970s.A stand alone building will lead to An Accredited Police Department where outsiders (usually retired police chiefs) plan (and the Village pays again) the operating systems for the department. The plans should be made by the upper rank exempt staff we have now. If the Village goes for An Accredited Police Force where outsiders determine policy fire the exempt rank we have now and turn the Police Department over to outside hired retired staff.The Village would be paying for double upper management. Above all learn the mistakes our public officials made in the 70s. Write an Oak Park book on how not to build a police department.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: January 15th, 2020 5:34 PM

"A trio of Wednesday Journalists were at the Oak Park Police Department Friday to talk through access to information issues" There was no mention of how things turned out with the FOIA. It just went into the need to spend million's of dollar's that the board has not approved

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 15th, 2020 5:03 PM

Jack. Maybe move to Berwyn? Then you too can talk how we Oak Parkers need to spend more millions on a police station to raise our taxes.

Jack Davidson  

Posted: January 15th, 2020 4:26 PM

What do we have to do to impeach Dan Haley?

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