CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Some residents of a predominantly white New Hampshire town are upset with racist remarks a police commissioner made about President Barack Obama.
Resident Jane O’Toole said she overheard Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Robert Copeland use a racial slur in describing Obama. And in an email to her, Copeland, who is white, acknowledged using the N-word 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 an excerpt from an email he sent to his fellow police commissioners acknowledging his remark and then forwarded to O’Toole. “For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
Copeland also wrote: “While I believe the problems associated with minorities in this country are momentous, I am not phobic.”
Copeland is one of three members of the police commission, which hires, fires and disciplines officers and sets their salaries. Copeland, 82, ran unopposed for re-election to the commission and secured another three-year term on March 11.
Wolfeboro 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. Owen said he expects a large number of residents will call for Copeland’s resignation at a police commission meeting, adding “more power to them.”
Copeland has declined to be interviewed. 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.”
O’Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro four months ago, said she overheard Copeland use the racial slur to describe Obama at a local restaurant on 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.
She wrote to the town manager in early April, and he replied that he was powerless to act. She then wrote to Copeland’s two fellow police commissioners. In an email response to her, Copeland included the excerpt from the email he had sent to the other commissioners.
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.