WOLFEBORO, N.H. (CBS) – Town residents packed a police commissioners’ meeting in Wolfeboro, N.H., Thursday, many demanding the resignation of Robert Copeland, one of the three elected members of the police commission.
Copeland admits to using a racial slur while at a local restaurant.
“I find the comments appalling for a public official,” said John White, one of the many people who addressed the commission.
The controversy stems from an encounter at Nolan’s Bistro in downtown Wolfeboro between Copeland and another patron.
Town resident Jane O’Toole said she was just finishing up a meal when she heard Copeland use the “N” word about President Obama.
“I couldn’t hold myself back,” said O’Toole. “And I said ‘is someone here tossing around the “N” word’, and he rose up, turned around and said ‘yeah’, so I just said ‘not good, not good’ and I walked out of the restaurant.”
O’Toole wrote a letter to the local paper, and then received an email from Copeland which reads in part, “My use of derogatory slang in reference to those among them undeserving of respect is no secret. It is the exercise of my First Amendment rights … I believe I did use the “N” word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse. For this I do not apologize – he meets and exceeds my criteria for such … I visited Nolan’s for the purpose of enjoying cocktails and dinner …The complainant, who asserts a similar purpose, is, I feel sure, not qualified to judge me or my sobriety and frankly would be better served to tend to business closer to home. Listening to others thoughts belittles the listener.”
“If you feel that way, great, I’m all about freedom of speech,” said Whitney White, one of town’s few minority residents. “But then don’t represent the public that way.”
Police Chief Stuart Chase said the commission is responsible for hiring and firing department employees, and while he calls the comments “unacceptable,” he said Copeland has done a lot of good for the community.
“He has donated time, energy and resources to this town in a multitude of capacities that no one will ever know about,” Chase said.
Chase said his office has been inundated with calls and emails condemning Copeland’s words. Many of the calls have been “vile, obscene and threatening” said Chase, who said the comments do not represent the views and opinions of the department.
Police commissioners are not sworn police officers.
Copeland was re-elected to a three-year term in March.
Phone calls to his home were not returned.
WBZ-TV tried to reach him at his home but someone inside called police.
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