Residents of a small New Hampshire town called for the resignation of a police commissioner who used a racial slur to describe President Barack Obama.
Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Robert Copeland has been unapologetic for comments overheard by a resident at a restaurant in March. Jane O’Toole said she heard Copeland refer to Obama as “that f****** n*****” and complained about having to see the president often on television, according to the Concord Monitor.
“It’s not like I was eavesdropping. Mr. Copeland was being very loud,” she said.
O’Toole wrote to the town manager to complain, and when the town manager reached out to Copeland, he responded unapologetically.
“I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse [sic],” Copeland wrote in his response, according to the Associated Press. “For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
Residents packed into a library for a town meeting Thursday evening where many spoke out against his language.
“Comments like these, especially coming from a public official, are not only inexcusable but also terribly, unfortunately, reflects poorly on our town,” O’Toole said.
“This is a public office and I just want to simply say there’s absolutely no room for this in public office,” another resident said at the meeting.
Wolfeboro is a small town 40 miles from Concord with a population of roughly 6,300 and about 20 black residents.
Whitney White, who is black, described the remarks as “hurtful” to WMUR and joined a group of other residents to confront Copeland after Thursday’s meeting, but he remained resolute in his refusal to apologize.
“I admitted what I did,” Copeland said to White during that exchange. ”I made no bone about it.”
At least one local official is coming to Copeland’s defense. According to the Concord Monitor, Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni believes O’Toole is “blowing [the comment] out of proportion” and has no plans to ask to resign. “[Copeland’s] worked with a lot of blacks in his life,” he said.
WMUR reports that the police commission plans to meet to discuss what action they might take next, but gave no details on when that meeting will occur.
The Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen and Town Manager released a statement Friday evening expressing their condemnation of the comments, saying they “are appalled at the language” and “find it reprehensible and totally inconsistent with the Town’s open and welcoming character.”
They said the board has no power to remove Copeland from office under New Hampshire law, but hoped he would “accede to the public outcry and finally do the right thing and resign from his elected position to save the Town any further embarrassment of his making.”