Police commissioner in New Hampshire resigns after using racial slur against Obama

The 82-year-old police official who publicly referred to President Obama by a racial epithet and then would not apologize has resigned his post, town officials here confirmed Monday.

Robert Copeland, the head of Wolfeboro’s three-member police commission, turned in his resignation to the town manager and police chief Monday morning. 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 (D) — had called for his 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 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 also have 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 (R), 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 this week. It is unclear whether Copeland will be asked to step down.

Republican Mitt Romney, who challenged Obama in the 2012 election and who owns a vacation home in Wolfeboro, also has 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.”

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