Another day, another American referring to the U.S. president with a nasty racial slur—this time from an elected New Hampshire police commissioner, who loudly called Obama “that f***g n***r” in a crowded restaurant and then refused to apologize for it.
In the small town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, residents packed a town meeting last night and angrily called for 82-year-old Robert Copeland to resign from his post on the three-member town police commission that oversees the department. But Copeland sat defiantly with his arms crossed.
The brouhaha developed when Jane O’Toole, who moved to the town just four months ago, overheard Copeland use the slur at a restaurant in March.
“It’s not like I was eavesdropping. Mr. Copeland was being very loud,” O’Toole told television station WMUR.
In response, O’Toole wrote to the town manager about the incident, which prompted Copeland to write a letter to O’Toole acknowledging he used the word.
“I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic),” Copeland wrote. “For this, I do not apologize—he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
The TV station also reported that Copeland acknowledged in an email to his fellow police commissioners that he used the racial slur to describe Obama.
Copeland just won re-election two months ago, running unopposed for his seat on the commission that hires, fires and disciplines officers, and sets their salaries.
Wolfeboro Police Chief Stuart Chase told CNN Copeland can’t be “fired” since he’s an elected official. Chase said Copeland can either resign, or the board of commissioners can move to recall his election and hold a special election to replace him.
Commissioner Chairman Joseph Balboni Jr. said before the meeting that “this has been blown way out of proportion.”
The meeting took place at the Wolfeboro Public Library, where more than 100 residents gathered, many of them wearing shirts that had handmade stickers saying, “Resign.”
Librarian Joyce Davis said she couldn’t remember an issue in 40 years that has sparked so much emotion and outcry.
“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.
When no action was taken at the town meeting, many of them followed Copeland outside.
“I admitted what I did. I made no bone about it,” Copeland said to those who followed him as he walked to his car.
There are about 20 Black residents in the town of Wolfeboro, which is located in the scenic Lakes Region in the central part of New Hampshire and has a population of 6,300. During the 2012 campaign, reporters spent much time in the town because GOP nominee Mitt Romney often visited his vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee.
During a phone interview with the Union Leader, Copeland said he worked with Black people for many years, including when he was a deck officer in the Navy and in the Special Forces, and when he worked for Ford Motor Company in Detroit and a factory-loading platform in New Jersey.
“All the other workers were Black, except for me … I had nothing against these people,” he said.