Racial slur written on 'slave' doll leads to hate crime investigation

Groveland police, Waste Pro look into couple's claim

GROVELAND, Fla. – A "slave" doll with a racist slur painted on its clothing was left in a workplace truck in Groveland, prompting a hate crime investigation.

Steven Parks said he was outraged that he and his wife, both of whom work for Waste Pro, have been the targets of harassment at their workplace.

Parks said he discovered the doll last Friday when he stepped into his truck.

"Somebody hanged a 'slave' doll and they wrote on it, 'You 2 (expletive) go back to Philly,'" Parks said. "The only two people who work here that are from Philadelphia are me and my wife."

Parks said he called the company's human resources department several times, but nothing was done. The couple then contacted News 6.

A representative with Waste Pro's corporate office said the company called the Groveland Police Department as soon as the incident was brought to its attention. The company said it is also conducting an internal investigation.

"While we cannot comment on the specifics of these investigations, any type of discrimination or hate crime is abhorrent in the culture of our company, in which more than 60 percent of our 3,500-member workforce are minorities," said Ron Pecora, senior vice president at Waste Pro USA.

Pecora referred all questions to company attorneys.

The city of Groveland confirmed that a criminal investigation is underway into an allegation of racial harassment at Waste Pro at 20344 U.S. Highway 27.

"The City of Groveland is confident our police department is investigating these allegations thoroughly. The City of Groveland is committed to providing a safe, diverse community where all citizens are treated with respect, and we are putting our full resources toward this investigation. Hate crimes, hate speech and acts of bias will not be tolerated," city manager Mike Hein said.