CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A police commissioner in a predominantly White New Hampshire town says he won’t apologize for calling President Barack Obama the N-word, and he sat with his arms crossed while angry residents at a meeting called for his resignation on Thursday.
Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Robert Copeland, who’s 82 and White, has acknowledged in an email to his fellow police commissioners he used the racial slur in describing Obama.
Resident Jane O’Toole said she overheard Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Robert Copeland use a racial slur in describing Obama.
While she was finishing up a celebratory dinner, a man sitting nearby at the bar said loudly that he hates watching television, because every time he turns it on, he sees “that f—— n—–.”
“I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse,” Copeland said in the email to his fellow police commissioners, part of which he forwarded to O’Toole. “For this, I do not apologize – he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
And in an email to her obtained by The Associated Press, Copeland acknowledged using the “N” word in referring to the president and said he will not apologize.
Copeland, who has declined to be interviewed, is one of three members of the police commission, which hires, fires and disciplines officers and sets their salaries. He ran unopposed for re-election and secured another three-year term on March 11.
About 20 black people live in Wolfeboro, a town of 6,300 residents in the scenic Lakes Region, in the central part of New Hampshire, a state that’s 94 percent White and 1 percent Black. None of the town police department’s 12 full-time officers is Black or a member of another minority; one part-time officer is Black.
Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni Jr. told the Concord Monitor he doesn’t plan to ask Copeland to resign. He said, “He’s (Copeland) worked with a lot of Blacks in his life … He said some harsh words about Mr. Obama, and here we are. This woman, she’s blowing it all out of proportion.”
Town Manager David Owen said Thursday that while he finds Copeland’s comment “reprehensible,” he and the board of selectmen have no authority to remove an elected official. He said he expected a large number of residents would call for Copeland’s resignation at the police commission meeting, and they did.
More than 100 people packed into the meeting room at the Wolfeboro Public Library, many of them wearing on their shirts handmade stickers saying, “Resign.”
“Comments like these, especially coming from a public official, are not only inexcusable but also terribly, unfortunately, reflects poorly on our town,” said O’Toole, who was met with resounding applause.
Commissioner Ron Goodgame, in response to a challenge from O’Toole about whether he and Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni Jr. endorse Copeland’s comments, said, “It’s neither my view or Commissioner Balboni’s view that the remarks are condoned.”
Nearly two dozen speakers at Thursday’s meeting called on Copeland to quit, and two spoke in his defense. Resident Frank Bader mocked those who took offense at Copeland’s comments in a state that prizes freedom.
“All this man did was express his displeasure with the man who’s in office,” Bader said.
After Balboni closed the meeting’s public comment session, many people in the audience descended on Copeland, who remained seated at the commissioners’ table and staunchly refused to engage them.
“I want to think about what’s going on and decide,” he said.
O’Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro four months ago, said she overheard Copeland use a racial slur to describe Obama at a local restaurant March 6. She said she didn’t know Copeland was the police commissioner until she returned to the restaurant the next day and asked about him.