I see a few diaries here about the Police Commissioner's remarks and the meeting held on Thursday in which the public addressed the Commission meeting with our concerns.
I live in Wolfeboro, and I was at that meeting - I'm one of those who was sitting on the floor down front. So I had an excellent opportunity to observe the whole thing, and I'll be happy to tell you about it below the fold.
First off, hats off to Jane O'Toole, who decided not to let this slide. She heard the remarks, found out he was on the Police Commission, and took her complaint to the selectmen. The selectmen are not able to remove other elected officials. And instead of apologizing, Mr. Copeland doubled down and went on about his first amendment rights, and then proceeded to lecture Ms. O'Toole on her supposed lack of good manners.
As one resident put it, "I wouldn't have accepted an apology like that from my 7 year old."
In any case, Ms. O'Toole persisted, was invited to address the next meeting of the Commission - I have to tell you here that they hold these meetings at 4 pm, so anyone working 9-5 was unable to come.
As I approached the library I could see I was going to have to park in a different lot across the street. The library was parked up. People were streaming in. The meeting room is on the small side, I think it can hold about 113 people by fire code, but long before that limit was reached they stopped people from coming in. Before 4, the hallway was full of people who wanted to get in and hear and were not being allowed to.
Legally, I believe, there may be something saying they must move the meeting to accommodate the public, but they had no mind to do this until the head librarian presented herself in their midst and said they'd either have to let everyone in or move the meeting. So then they let everyone in, and we lined the floors and walls. (Three cheers for librarians!)
And then began the parade up to the microphone. Jane O'Toole spoke first. She told her story, and she asked for Commissioner Copeland's resignation.
Then came the pastor of the church across the street. Then students, parents, people old and young, all spoke saying this was unacceptable, except for 3 people who seemed eager to change the subject to other things they thought we should be outraged about - one started going on about gay marriage, as if this was somehow relevant.
I think it was over an hour that the testimony went on. Community TV taped the whole thing, so sometime soon we should be able to get the DVD. Copeland didn't resign that night, but I want to tell you that the sight of my neighbors and townspeople standing up one after another for an end to his term in office was deeply inspiring. This was certainly my favorite of all the meetings I've been to in this town over the last 8 years.
So before you write off Wolfeboro over this incident, please remember there are many, many people here devoted to making this town a better place. We are confident that if we keep at it we will succeed.
7:48 PM PT: UPDATE: STATEMENT REGARDING POLICE COMMISSIONER ROBERT COPELAND
The Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen (the Town’s governing body) and Town Manager (its chief executive officer) are appalled at the language used by Commissioner Copeland relative to President Obama, and have publicly stated that we find it reprehensible and totally inconsistent with the Town’s open and welcoming character. Mr. Copeland’s views are in no way representative of the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Wolfeboro, its administration, or the men and women of the Wolfeboro Police Department.
The Wolfeboro Police Commission is a separately elected Town board that does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen or Town Manager, and there is no provision in New Hampshire State Law or the Town’s ordinances that would enable us to remove Mr. Copeland from his elected position on the Police Commission for his egregious behavior.
Therefore, we are hopeful that Mr. Copeland will accede to the public outcry and finally do the right thing and resign from his elected position to
save the Town any further embarrassment of his making.
David Owen, Town Manager 5/16/14
Full video of the meeting can be seen here. - thanks for that link, kerplunk!