Though accounts vary, the basics of what happened last Tuesday evening in Harlem are not in dispute: an unmarked police car with two white officers inside drove around with the head of a black doll on the rear antenna, reports the New York Times. The officers said they did not know it was there. Some witnesses said they must have because the head was life-size. The Police Department said the car was patrolling the streets for only a short time that day; some witnesses said it was hours. The police are trying to determine who attached the head to the antenna. Some witnesses say an officer laughed as he tossed the doll's head into the car trunk.
While a doll's head on a police car might not seem generally offensive, in Harlem, residents' relationship with the New York City Police Department has long been fraught with tension and distrust. “This is a significant marker of a deteriorating relationship,” said State Senator Bill Perkins, who organized a march on Thursday to protest the doll's head. “This incident opens up the Pandora's box. It reminds people there have been other incidents.”