CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Some residents of a predominantly white New Hampshire town are upset with racist remarks they say a police commissioner has 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 obtained by The Associated Press, Copeland acknowledged using the “N” word in referring to the president and said he will not apologize.
Copeland is one of three members of the police commission, which hires, fires and disciplines officers and sets their salaries.
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.”
Balboni did not respond to messages from the AP seeking comment.
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.
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 an excerpt from an email he sent to his fellow commissioners acknowledging his remark.
He said in the excerpt, “I believe I did use the “N” word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse. For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.” He also wrote: “While I believe the problems associated with minorities in this country are momentous, I am not phobic.”
About 20 African Americans live in Wolfeboro, a town of about 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 African American or a member of another minority. One of its part-time officers is black.