May 19th, 2014
01:54 PM ET
7 years ago

Police commissioner in N.H. town resigns over Obama slur

(CNN) - A small-town police commissioner in New Hampshire, who originally said he wouldn't apologize for calling President Barack Obama the n-word, resigned on Monday.

Joseph Balboni, Police Commission chairman of Wolfeboro, confirmed to CNN that he received a resignation email from Robert Copeland.

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"Dear Commission Chairman Balboni, I resign," wrote Copeland in the email.

Copeland resignation letter 1

Last Thursday, Copeland, 82, sat with his arms crossed at a packed town meeting while a crowd of angry residents in the predominantly white town called for his resignation.

Copeland acknowledged in an email to his fellow police commissioners that he used the racial slur to describe Obama.

Jane O'Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro four months ago, said she overheard Copeland use the word at a restaurant in March.

"It's not like I was eavesdropping. Mr. Copeland was being very loud," O'Toole told CNN affiliate WMUR.

She wrote to the town manager about the incident, and Copeland replied with a letter to O'Toole.

"I believe I did use the 'N' word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic)," Copeland wrote. "For this, I do not apologize - he meets and exceeds my criteria for such."

Copeland was one of three members of the police commission, which hires, fires and disciplines officers and sets their salaries.

Two months ago he ran unopposed for re-election and secured another three-year term.

Wolfeboro, located in the scenic Lakes Region in the central part of New Hampshire, has around 20 African-American residents among its population of 6,300. The town was often a dateline in news reports during the 2012 presidential election, with GOP Mitt Romney spending time with family and campaign aides at his vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee.

Over the weekend Romney called on Copeland to apologize and resign.

"The vile epithet used and confirmed by the commissioner has no place in our community: He should apologize and resign," Romney said in a statement provided to CNN

CNN's Yon Pomrenze, Stephanie Gallman, Paul Steinhauser and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report

Filed under: Mitt Romney • New Hampshire • President Obama
soundoff (714 Responses)
  1. fritfrat

    "Freedom of speech doesn't give you the right to insult or belittle another human being." To the contrary, freedom of speech absolutely does give you this right. The right, for the government to not fine, arrest or censure you for making this comment. Of course, this does not mean that private citizens must sit by passively and not respond. Free speech may vary well have consequences-but still a "right."

    May 19, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. ezra

    Freedom of Speech and thought does not exist in the modern liberal world unless they say it.

    May 19, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. Jessie

    Not that I agree with what he said, but he was talking in a private conversation. Maybe Ms. O'Toole should have been paying attention to the people at her own table. If he said it in a speech, news conference, etc, but his private conversation should have been private. I don't blame him for sending such an email to resign and for not apologizing.

    May 19, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. rs

    Robert Cicero

    The thought police have won today.

    Every last American who is happy at this denial of First Amendment rights should remember this when they themselves are denied their right to express themselves.

    That reality is already here; it's just a matter of time before every American experiences the same thing.

    Shame on all the self-appointed thought police.
    One's private view and one's private statements are one thing. This gentleman is a law enforcement authority, who clearly holds racist ideals (which certainly could lead to unequal protection under the law); and has defamed the President of the United States- one of the highest executive law enforcement positions, as well as commander-in-chief. I would hope you recognize the Constitutional issues there.

    As an aside- this guy is not being subjected to the "thought police" (whoever they might be in Right-wing paranoia), he was subject to his own narrow-minded and archaic views, and poor judgment.

    May 19, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. Portlandtony

    82 Huh!

    May 19, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  6. JohnnyV

    The 2nd Amendment protects your freedom of speed. However, it does not protect you from the consequences of using it.

    May 19, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    There's no place for people like him, especially in positions of authority. Glad to see him go.

    May 19, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. sly

    America has always had a strong right to Freedom of Speech.

    And when Americans say really stupid or ignorant or hateful things, us Americans exercise our right to protest and throw the bums out!

    We have a great nation. See ya' gramps – you'll have plenty of time to shine your Confederate War medals until you croak.

    May 19, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |

    If he truly believe he did nothing wrong then he wouldn't have resigned. I'm all for freedom of speech but this was NO need for him to be disrespectful the way he was.

    May 19, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. NotAtAll

    @ Wake Up People! – I certainly agree with you said except it is highly unlikely the 20 black people who live in that community walk around with their heads down. It's much more likely that they are so assimilated, that you wouldn't be able to identify them as black unless you met them face-to-face, and perhaps not even then if they are very fair-skinned. And the reverse would also be as likely. People take on the characteristics of the community they live in, especially when racial percentages are as skewed as that.

    May 19, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. rs

    Rick McDaniel

    He was forced to resign by the liberal agenda.........and his employers.
    And his stupidity. Doesn't "responsibility" for one's actions enter the Right-wing mindset anymore, Rick?

    May 19, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. John

    Good to see him gone.

    May 19, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. lmc3

    Too bad all this commotion about racist comments is not a two way street. And the news media keeps stirring the pot by publicizing a rude racist comment by some old guy in a tiny town.

    May 19, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Becca

    I hope justice comes to Los Angeles too. The police have a powerful job, and thus police officers should be held to the highest moral standard. They should weed out racists, sexists and other bigots from the profession, so that people are treated equally. Police Academies should teach not just how to use a gun, but also how to use tolerance. People who are paid by the government on and of the job should be held to highest standard of tolerance or fired. It is a privilege to work for the government not a right.

    May 19, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Bumba

    I bet he's never brought a black man to a Clippers game...

    May 19, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. rs

    lawrence cook

    i salute you sir for speaking your mind.
    You have a taste and appreciation for hate speech by public authorities?

    May 19, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. @RI_Roger

    It was the right thing to do for Mr. Copeland to resign. Now is time for America to rise above the fray and require social punishment for ANYONE using the term in ANY context in private or public conversations, of ANY race-African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, etc.... It needs to be obliterated from everyone's lexicon FOREVER!

    May 19, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  18. Jesse

    Using the first amendment to defend bigotry is a Copout. He has the right to speak his mind but not everyone has to agree with him and the people's voices are much louder. Be prepared to take the responsibility and the consequences for your words.

    May 19, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  19. Ingramjr

    I watched the video of the town meeting and I think his fellow citizens gave him an important message that his speech and behavior wasn't acceptable. Good for the townspeople and bad for the old codger. He sounded like a bitter, bitter old man.

    May 19, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Bookldy209

    As well he should have. Although from his two word letter of resignation one can infer he hasn't changed his shameful attitude at all. Only thing that really suprised me is that he is from New England, a place from which I expect more.

    May 19, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. phil

    Trouble is that this fossil never fully disclosed himself to the electorate. He knows that if he did he would never been elected to serve. Had I been able to I would have asked him to explain why he chose to use that word. If he was truthful we then would fully realize what an imbecile he really is.

    May 19, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. sly

    "In this post-racial society that we live in.... How many voters...white or black..... based their votes on the color of the Presidents skin rather than the content of his policies?"
    Guaranteed 90% of Republicans would never vote for an asian, a hispanic or a black.

    There can be no argument here – we ALL know that is a true statement. Now come on Party of 2% African Americans – let's hear from your deniers!

    May 19, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. 2toy

    That is just sad. He's 82, and he'll pass on from this world soon enough. Does he think his god, whoever he believes him, will welcome him and say 'good job Robert' ? Will he wait 'till his last breath and ask for forgiveness ? If he has some form of dementia or impaired thinking due to his advanced age, does that excuse him with his god as well ? Will Fox news lionize him as another old , patriotic, american hero ?

    May 19, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. Doc Ray

    It is not the use of the n-word that we should be worried about, but the consequences to racial minorities during his career as a police official. Journalists should be digging for info. on the victims of his racist attitude rather than thinking that the whole problem is solved when he resigned. It is the system that he is part of that I'm more worried about. And yes, I'm a person of color.

    May 19, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Rob

    Obama should take him for a beer and have a one on one. He may find the president a reasonable guy

    May 19, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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