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Wolfeboro official: No apology for using slur to describe Obama

Special to the Union Leader

May 14. 2014 11:10PM

WOLFEBORO — A member of the town’s three-person police commission has acknowledged using the N-word to refer to President Obama, and he said he won’t apologize for doing so.

Commissioner Bob Copeland, an 82-year-old retired lawyer, said he’s not racist and doesn’t hate anybody. But in an online posting, Copeland wrote Obama “meets and exceeds my criteria for” using the slur, which is often referred to by just the first letter -- n -- of the six letter word.

“I’m not phobic. I do not hate or dislike anybody. I have a level of respect I expect of people in public office, which applies to me, and this man in the White House does not measure up. When that occurs, I do upon occasion use slang expressions to refer to them,” Copeland said in an interview Wednesday.

The remarks will be discussed Thursday, when the Wolfeboro Police Commission holds its regular meeting at the Wolfeboro Public Library at 4 p.m.

Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni Jr. said he expects at least 60 people to be on hand.

“This has been blown way out of proportion,” he said.

Copeland’s remarks came to light when town resident Jane O’Toole summarized them in a Facebook post and a letter in a local weekly newspaper.

She said she overheard a man she later learned was Copeland use the word at Nolan’s Restaurant in March.

Copeland referred to Obama as “that f------ n-----.”

In an article, O’Toole acknowledges that Copeland is “within his 1st Amendment rights to spout off anything he pleases.” But she wonders if readers would have voted for him if they knew what views he harbored.

“I also ask sadly, how can this behavior and response be ‘accepted’ by the other two members of the Police Commission? Does this public statement of opinion, openly admitting racial intolerance, not put the town at risk for discrimination lawsuits?” O’Toole wrote.

Copies of the letter to the editor, and Copeland’s response, were also posted on a Lakes Region online public forum.

In a written response to O’Toole’s letter, Copeland states he did use the N-word “in reference to the current occupant of the White House.”

“For this I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Copeland said he will attend today’s meeting.

Copeland said he worked with black people for many years, including with the U.S. Navy as a deck officer and in the Special Forces and at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. He said he also worked in New Jersey on a factory loading platform.

“All the other workers were black, except for me ... I had nothing against these people,” he said.

Commission Chairman Balboni said he conferred with town counsel Mark Puffer about the situation. “We can’t fire him,” Balboni said. “The guy went out to dinner, and used the word against Obama, and this lady picked up on it. It is what it is,” he said.

Copeland was reelected to the commission this year when he ran unopposed for a three-year term and received 1,397 votes on the town ballot on March 11.

Copeland said he ran so that he could support the Police Department.

“The police need support — not everybody looks upon the police department in a positive light,” he said.

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