Embattled Police Commissioner Asked to Step Down
Political leaders in a predominantly white New Hampshire town have officially joined residents in demanding the resignation of a police commissioner who uttered a racial slur about President Barack Obama.
Wolfeboro Town Manager David Owen posted a message Friday on the town’s website calling on Robert Copeland to resign the post to which he was re-elected in March. In the post, Owen said Copeland’s comments are “appalling” and called on him to save the town further embarrassment.
State and local officials say they’ve gotten complaints from as far away as California from people upset about the comments, some of whom have threatened to cancel vacations to New Hampshire.
The vice chairwoman of the town’s Board of Selectmen also pushed Copeland to step down.
“I know there are people trying to convince him to resign, but he seems entrenched in his position,” said Sarah Silk. “He could stop this runaway train.”
More than 100 residents packed a Police Commission meeting Thursday to demand the resignation of Copeland, 82.
About 20 black people live in Wolfeboro, a town of 6,300 in central New Hampshire, a state that’s 94 percent white and 1 percent black. None of the police department’s 12 full-time officers is black or a member of another minority.
A resident said she overheard Copeland use a slur a restaurant in March and wrote to the town manager. Copeland, in an email to her, 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 an email to his fellow police commissioners. “For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
Officials say resignation is the only way to get Copeland out of office before his three-year term expires. New Hampshire has no recall provision for elected officials.
Wolfeboro Police Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni said at the close of Thursday’s meeting that the three commissioners would meet privately in the near future to “solve the problem” but that no date has been set.
Experts on the state’s open meeting law differ on whether such a meeting would have to be conducted in public.
Wolfeboro’s town counsel, Mark Puffer, would not comment Friday on whether the commission could meet privately.