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.
Town resident Jane O’Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro four months ago, said she overheard Copeland say the slur at a restaurant in March and wrote to the town manager about it soon after. In an email to her, Copeland acknowledged using the slur in referring to the president and said he will not apologize.
“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.”
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 to the commission 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. The town manager’s office said none of the police department’s 12 full-time officers is black or a member of another minority. One of its part-time officers is black.
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 on Thursday, 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 the first to speak and 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.”
Balboni told the Concord Monitor he didn’t plan to ask Copeland to resign.
Another speaker at the meeting was Ethan Hipple, director of parks and recreation for the town.
“It’s a sad day when an elected official lets loose with this hateful speech,” Hipple said, “but I think it’s a great day for the community when it stands up and does not allow this kind of hateful speech in this town.”