Doll head on police car angers Harlem residents who see sign of hatred, racism

NEW YORK ( – The head of a Black doll displayed on the antenna of an unmarked police car driven by two White officers while on patrol sparked accusations of racial insensitivity by police in Harlem.

Residents, politicians and the NAACP held a July 24 rally in Marcus Garvey Park and expressed anger over what they called Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s weak response.


“We wanted an apology and we were given an excuse. We wanted an investigation and we got, ‘It was a prank,’ ” said State Sen. Bill Perkins, who spearheaded the call for the rally.

“I don’t believe the commissioner’s claim that the officers didn’t know it was there,” Sen. Perkins said. “I also dismiss the suggestion that someone in the neighborhood had placed it there. That is what we call a classic case of blaming the victim.”

The incident occurred July 22 when officers patrolling a neighborhood under the jurisdiction of the 25th Precinct when a group of young men spotted the doll head. One of the young men attended the rally and told the crowd that he tried to take a photo of the doll head, but the officers quickly put it into the trunk of the car.

During a July 23 press conference, Sen. Perkins said the officers “admitted” to him that the doll head was on their antenna, but said they did not “know” it until someone called it to their attention. According to the senator, the officers said they had stopped off at a neighborhood basketball game.

The state senator was attending a ribbon cutting in the neighborhood when he was approached by witnesses to the police actions.

“There is a culture that this represents, an action which is representative of hate and gets acted out in terms of police brutality and physical disrespect that our citizens tell us about over and over again. We cannot take this incident with the doll head as an aberration,” the state senator said.

Hazel Dukes, NAACP New York State Chapter president, stood next to Sen. Perkins at the rally and called the incident “pure racism.” She was also at the same event when witnesses approached Sen. Perkins.

Attorney Roger Wareham of the December 12th Movement agreed with Ms. Dukes, saying the doll incident “reflects a disturbing comfort level with White supremacy that is on the rise in this society.”

The police commissioner issued a statement on July 25 saying that police department investigators believe the officers placed the doll head on the antenna.

“It seems plausible to me,” Mr. Kelly said, according to the NY Daily News, “that the officer’s did not see the head until someone pointed it out.” He added that the doll head has not been found.

Nellie Bailey housing activist and director of the Harlem Tenants Council told the Final Call that the doll issue is being used by those who have failed the Harlem community in regards to gentrification. “Many of the leaders who are angry about the doll have not shown the same anger as major corporations, banks, developers and Columbia University have carved up Harlem and used gentrification as a barrier against the Black community,” Ms. Bailey said.

“We have this increased police presence to intimidate those who would be vocal against the city’s plans to change the face of Harlem,” she said.