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. steve

    If he were black this would not have happened

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

    @ezra

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

    Umm, Mitt Romney is a liberal?

    May 19, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. OldSchool

    He's free to say what he wishes, and the citizens to which he is beholden as a public official are free to express their disdain for his unapologetic racism...

    May 19, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  4. Young Man

    It is SHOCKING to me how many right wing constitution thumpers have NO idea what the First Amendment means and who(what) it's protections extends to. Hint: you DONT have the right to say whatever you want, whenever and wherever you want, with no consequences!

    May 19, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  5. Phil Simon

    Freedom of Speech does not guarantee freedom from consequence of that speech. He is free to say it. And the town people are free to not accept it and demand his resignation.

    May 19, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. MSW

    He made the right move by resigning. Now they need to find a non-racist for a replacement

    May 19, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. josh

    Everyone is entitled to freedoms of speech. That allows you to say anything, and only protects that the govt will not make any laws to impede that freedom. But nothing protects you from the consequences of your choice of speech.

    May 19, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Vence

    Kind of remind me of Donald....!

    May 19, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  9. Rich

    Sure, free speech has its consequences, but only if said free speech offends "protected groups."

    When straight white men are the targets, "consequences" and "repercussions" are nowhere to be found.

    May 19, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. revbro

    If this man had been thrown in jail then all of you who are screaming about 1st amendment rights would have a case. He was not arrested, or cited, or fined.. he simply suffered the consequences of those who didn't like what he said. Some of the same loud mouthed conservatives who wanted the Dixie Chicks to be banned from ever performing in the USA are now defending this man? Incredible.

    May 19, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. Susan StoHelit

    You can't trust someone like that to be racially unbiased when dealing with the public – he has no place in public office, especially not the police that must be trusted to be unbiased.

    He had the right to say it – and the public had the right to find it offensive and indicative of a mentality that they do not want in their government.

    May 19, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. Chaiah

    I applaud all those citizens in Wolfeboro who stood up against this man and made it clear they expect to be represented by someone better than that man. I grew up in NH – and spent a lot of time in Wolfeboro, and the people there are far better than that miserable person.

    May 19, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  13. Tracy

    NH = the "Live Free or Die" state. When I used to live back in New England, I found that many of the residents in NH were very narrow minded and a bit red-necked. Hopefully this incident and resulting call to have that old battle-axe to resign, sends a clear message to the rest of the GOP rednecks out there. Disrespect our President with a racial slur like this and you will be held accountable!

    I love the post by "Sly", 2 posts above this one, and totally agree with his statement:
    "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 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. Lily

    Thats early retirement Copeland! Enjoy your time there as you can sing "N" word as much as you wish. No one will bother to disturb you at your home.

    May 19, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. pjdifab

    Too bad the guy didn't accept change...as a public servant he should have. Now he's jobless, which should be okay given his age.....and the hate continues. WAKE UP PEOPLE AND LEARN TO LOVE...as we're supposed to.

    May 19, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. foxxstory

    Seems like Tbone prefers to live in an era where racism and calling peoples racist names is ok.

    Freedoms of Speech protects you from government persecution... Nothing else.

    May 19, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  17. foxxstory

    Freedom of speech protects you from government persecution... not from losing your job for saying racist comments. Speech has it consequences.. good or bad.

    May 19, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. foxxstory

    Freedom of speech protects you from government persecution... not from losing your job for saying raci st comments. Speech has it consequences.. good or bad.

    May 19, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Joe SKinner

    If someone ever does something overtly racist and you defend him by pointing to some unrelated instance when you saw a black person doing something racist then you are likely just as racist as both of them.

    May 19, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. John

    Freedom of speech is still in existence, witness the scurrilous thing this man said. However, freedom of speech sometimes carries with it certain consequences. This is no liberal or conservative issue, but a fact of life when some old moron makes a statement that shows no respect to another elected official

    May 19, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. Michele

    Props to Mr Romney. Didn't ( and still wouldn't), but I think him an honorable man and believe his call for this cretin's resignation sincere. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    May 19, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. Linda Bryson

    What a douche bag!! This is way over due! Thank god someone spoke up. Yes, he has the freedom to speak his idiotic mind – but no where in the constitution does it say you'll get to keep your job which is paid for by the all the citizen's in the town – many who may not be Lilly white and are offended by him.

    He is obviously a little senile!! He also has most likely passed down his attitude and this type of behavior to many policeman under him! There should be an investigation of the entire department. There are probably many racist cops in that town if he has been running it since the Middle Ages – no doubt.

    May 19, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. Trina Malatian

    Freedom of Speech is what Americans have each and every day. The statement made by this gentleman from New Hampshire gives our nation pause. What has happened to the moral fiber of our country when a person disrespects the President? The Office of the President, the person of the President, and the power of the President is given by "we the people". I am certain that this fellow has said aloud what others with racist views only think. How embarrassing in 2014 America that we are still fighting these battles. Shame on us.

    May 19, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  24. Name

    If you disagree with the president..you stii need to respect who he is.

    May 19, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. James

    All these people talking about it was a private conversation....he admitted to saying it! And it wasn't private, he was in a PUBLIC restaurant. Freedom of Speech? I don't recall him being criminally prosecuted for saying this? Just because you have the right to say what you want doesn't mean you can be an elected official and people not want your job for it! Ignorant people. See...free speech. And lastly...no one has privacy anymore. GWB helped make sure of that. But you don't have anything to hide so you're not worried, right? At least that's what all the repubs had to say when it passed.

    May 19, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
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