N.H. police official resigns over use of racial slur

Robert Copeland, the police commissioner of Wolfeboro, N.H., has resigned after fallout from use of racial slur to describe President Obama.
Jim Cole/AP
Robert Copeland, a police commissioner in Wolfeboro, N.H., has resigned after fallout from use of a racial slur to describe President Obama.

An elected police commissioner in Wolfeboro, N.H., who ignited a national firestorm when he used a racist slur to describe President Obama has resigned, town officials said Monday.

Robert Copeland told the chairman of the town’s three-member Police Commission and the police chief that he will leave the office he was slated to hold until 2017, Town Manager David W. Owen said in an interview.

A public safety dispatcher said Copeland had resigned effective 10:34 p.m. Sunday.


The 82-year-old Copeland became a national story after a resident reported she heard Copeland use the slur when describing Obama. The woman complained to town officials.

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When questioned about it, Copeland sent an e-mail acknowledging that he had used the word, but also refusing to apologize.

Copeland’s comments were widely denounced by political leaders, including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney who has long had a summer home in the resort town on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in the state’s Lakes Region.

Owen said in a telephone interview that Copeland had “tarnished the town’s reputation and brand’’ and that he and the local Chamber of Commerce had received e-mails from people vowing to boycott the town’s businesses, to cancel summer reservations, and to never return.

“Unfortunately, our business community may feel the brunt of this,’’ Owen said, “though they had nothing to do with Mr. Copeland’s views on things.’’


Linda Murray, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, told the Associated Press the town is pleased by Copeland’s decision. ‘‘This gives us the opportunity to move on,” she said.

“We are a very accepting community that really takes care of each other.’’

Copeland acknowledged using the slur at a restaurant in March.

‘‘I believe I did use the N-word in reference to the current occupant of the White House,’’ Copeland said in a April e-mail that was sent to the two other commissioners and forwarded to the resident. ‘‘For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.’’

Town officials had said they shared the outrage but were powerless to remove an elected official, the AP reported.

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@