Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Resigns over Use of N-Word to Refer to Obama; Townspeople React

Larissa Mulkern, Union Leader, May 19, 2014

The police commissioner who came under fire after slinging a racial slur about President Obama, who then refused to apologize after an enraged community demanded his removal, has resigned.

In a statement released Monday, Wolfeboro Police Commission Chair Joe Balboni, Jr., confirmed that Commissioner Bob Copeland tendered his resignation in a brief email he received at 10:34 p.m. Sunday night. The e-mail stated, “Dear Commission Chairman Balboni, I resign. Bob Copeland.”

Copeland, 82, was elected to his second three-year term in March. Praised by some for his leadership and public spirit, Copeland came under fire after resident Jane O’Toole overheard him calling President Obama a racial slur while dining at a local restaurant in March. O’Toole ultimately complained to town officials and the police commission.

Last week, more than 100 people turned out, many of whom called for Copeland’s resignation. Copeland is a retired corporate attorney who also served as an officer with the U.S. Navy.


Coverage of the incident has garnered international attention. On Friday, Police Chief Stuart Chase said both the dispatch center and town hall had been deluged by angry callers, some of whom mistakenly thought that the police commissioner was a sworn officer. He said calls came from as far away as Alaska and Canada.


In a statement Friday, Town Manager David Owen and the Board of Selectmen called for Copeland’s resignation. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who owns a vacation home in Wolfeboro, also called for Copeland to resign.


Commissioners Balboni and Ron Goodgame will fill the vacancy with an appointee. {snip}


“What the town will take away from this is that politicians better watch what they say,” said Goodgame. He said Copeland has been a “terrific friend” over the years and said he hoped in time the friendship would heal. Both Commissioners Goodgame and Balboni denounced Copeland’s comment.


Whitney White, an African American who attended and now works at Brewster Academy, said while she’s happy Copeland resigned, she noted how he had not apologized.

Town Manager David Owen was also pleased to hear of the resignation, but said Copeland could have saved the town from angst had he resigned sooner.

“It’s too bad it took so long for (the resignation) to happen. He put a lot of people through a lot of angst,” he said.

Owen said town officials reacted quickly to the controversy created by Copeland’s comments after

“The whole thing could have been averted by Mr. Copeland if he apologized. He could have said, ‘Gee, I was drinking and I shouldn’t have made that remark,’ and that would have been the end of it,” Owen said.


Copeland, 82, came under fire after a resident overheard him call President Obama a “f****** [N-word]” at a restaurant in March, then brought the incident to the attention of town and police officials.


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