WOLFEBORO -- More than 100 outraged residents packed the Police Commission meeting Thursday, many demanding Commissioner Bob Copeland’s resignation for using the N-word to describe President Barack Obama.
Many people wore handmade stickers bearing the word “Resign.” Others carried signs, including one saying, “Shame on You.”
Copeland, 82, a retired attorney who was reelected to the three-member Police Commission this year, did not answer questions from the public during the hearing at which residents called for him to resign and threatened to pursue his removal via a recall petition.
Copeland is under fire after resident Jane O’Toole overheard him at a local restaurant call President Obama “that f------ n-----.” He acknowledged making the comment in a written response to O’Toole, adding that the President “meets and exceeds” his criteria for his use of the N-word.
O’Toole, who was cheered as she took the podium for a brief comment, said while she acknowledged Copeland’s First Amendment rights, she found the commends to be inexcusable. “It reflects poorly on our town and as such I believe he should step down,” she said.
“I think the words Mr. Copeland used was hate language,” said Edward Ryerson, interim pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church.
He added: “Your job as I understand it is to create an environment that supports public safety. I feel less safe in this community if those remarks are part of our elected official’s opinion.”
Copeland did not respond to the question posed by Michael Bloomer, a junior at Kingswood Regional High School.
“I’d like to ask you Mr. Copeland, what do you mean by this?”
John R. White’s comments received applause from the audience.
“I find Commissioner Copeland’s comment in public appalling and I find his explanation of such to be beyond repugnant. By what right does Mr. Copeland set himself up to decide who among minorities does not deserve respect? It is my understanding that every citizen in this country is worthy of respect, especially from an elected official,” White said.
He added: “I find Mr. Copeland’s comment and his lack of contrition, his lack of understanding, and his appalling insensitivity, disqualifies him from any further service. If you do not have the decency to resign, prepare yourself, because we will institute recall.”
Speakers calling for Copeland’s resignation included Rob Houseman of the Planning Department and Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple.
Copeland had some defenders.
Frank Bader said Copeland was expressing his opinion. “All this man did was express his displeasure with the man who’s in office,” Bader said.
Richard Stockton said “let he who has no sin cast the first stone.”
“Why is the N-word so offensive to so many people? The N-word is used in ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Huck Finn,’” Stockton said.
Commission Chairman Joe Balboni closed the hearing after about an hour and said the commission was going into nonpublic session.
As the public hearing portion of the meeting ended, Copeland indicated he had not come to a decision.
“I’m going to think about what’s going on, then I’ll decide,” he said.