"Horse in Hand," Ninth Letter (fall 2014)

The high ceilings and glass architecture of the main offices of the Chicago Police Department on South Michigan Avenue suggest transparency, though it is not a department whose legitimate authority, at any given point in its history, could be taken for granted. At the time I requested permission to report on the mounted unit, in 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley had just hired a new chief of police, from the FBI, to clean up corruption. Framed badges studded the walls, each commemorating the life of a Chicago police officer who had died in the line of duty. I went to the information desk, where they told me to wait. A man in a white shirt with a badge fastened to his belt took my letter of request and disappeared up the staircase.

Permission was granted. Several days later, at 7 a.m. on a cold spring morning, I stood with Officer Dan Ferek and his horse at the splintered green barn door, which hung askew. Outside, in the courtyard, the department’s horse trailers stood ready for loading before roll call. Officer Ferek let go of the reins. “He’s not going anywhere,” he said, and pushed the latch with both hands. As the horse stood, the green door rattled loose and fell off its hinge.

“Good,” he said, as the horse lifted his hooves over the pieces. “Maybe now they’ll fix it.” 

Purchase the issue here.