N.H. police commissioner who used racial slur in reference to Obama resigns

WOLFEBORO, N.H. — Town officials confirmed Monday that the 82-year-old police commissioner who was heard publicly calling President Obama the n-word — sparking nationwide outrage — has tendered his resignation.

Robert Copeland, 82, the vice chairman of Wolfeboro's three-member police commission, turned in his resignation to the head of the police commission late Sunday night, town officials confirmed.

His resignation comes as several of New Hampshire's most prominent politicians — including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Gov. Maggie Hassan — had called for Copeland's ouster.

“Commissioner Copeland’s reprehensible comments dishonor law enforcement officials across our state who work hard to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly, and the remarks do not represent the values of New Hampshire residents," said William Hinkle, a spokesman for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan. "Governor Hassan believes that he should listen to the people of Wolfeboro and New Hampshire and apologize and step down in order to restore confidence in the Commission.”

Several local lawmakers and community leaders have also called for Copeland's resignation.

"I’ve spoken with Commissioner Copeland, I’ve spoken with his wife and I’ve told them, both of them, that the remarks were offensive, there is no place for an elected official or anyone else describing the president of the United States or anybody using that term," said Jeb Bradley, a former congressman and current state senator from Wolfeboro. "I explained that to them, and I also said: You need to resign."

The firestorm erupted this month when Jane O’Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro about four months ago, overheard Copeland loudly describing Obama using the slur while sitting in a town restaurant. Upon discovering that he was an elected official, O’Toole formally complained to the town manager and other members of the police commission.

“I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse,” Copeland said in a subsequent e-mail to his fellow police commissioners, which he forwarded to O’Toole. “For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”

The three-member police commission, an elected body charged with hiring the town’s police force, plans to meet some time this week, but it is unclear whether Copeland will be asked to step down.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who owns a vacation home in Wolfeboro, has also called for Copeland to resign.

“The vile epithet used and confirmed by the commissioner has no place in our community,” Romney said in a statement to the Boston Herald last week. “He should apologize and resign.”

Related: A feeling of disgust in N.H. town after official’s use of racial slur against Obama

Wesley Lowery covers Capitol Hill for The Fix and Post Politics.
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