FAIR LAWN, NJ - The mayor was asked to stay away from the Mary Ann Collura tribute on Saturday citing what PBA #67 said was "anti-police rhetoric" shared by the mayor's wife on social media.
Fair Lawn PBA #67 wrote the following to its members: "It has come to the executive board's attention that anti-police rhetoric is being shared by Mayor Peluso's wife. Moreover, she is doing so on the anniversary of Sister Collura's ultimate sacrifice. The E-board felt it necessary to inform the membership so that we can all see these messages that are being posted. It is the view of the E-Board that Mayor Peluso recuse himself from tonight's services in remembrance of Sister Collura."
One of the posts, put out on April 17, the anniversary of Collura's murder while she was responding to assist another officer, was as follows:
Before they were racist adults with guns and badges, they were biased children and teens in someone's classroom.
And this is why teaching is political. ~ Linda Lamadrid-Peluso
Mayor Kurt Peluso, the Borough Council and Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, former mayor of Fair Lawn, stood together in the background of the ceremony while officers, including Chief Glen Cauwels, spoke about memories of Collura.
When asked on Monday via email, "Would you like to comment about the PBA asking you to not attend/speak at the Mary Ann Collura tribute?", Peluso answered as follows:
This past Saturday we got to honor and remember a true hero in our community who made the ultimate sacrifice. At the memorial, the Chief said we should focus on one memory of Mary Ann, here’s mine:
I wasn’t even two when Mary Ann was sworn in to our department. My grandma lived behind and was good friends with former Captain Gajarsky and his wife Marie, they have always been like family to us. This relationship allowed me to know Mary Ann throughout my childhood. When I was 12 I was out riding my bike with friends and Mary Ann stopped her car and yelled, “Hi Kurt,” as she made her way towards me, I felt so cool having an officer know my name. When she got closer she smiled, gave me a stern look, and said, “you need to be wearing your helmet.”
Tensions between the mayor and governing body and the police are nothing new. Last summer, at a police and first responder rally and simultaneous counter protest, Fair Lawn police and the Bergen County Rapid Deployment Force stood between the ralliers and the protesters when tempers flared as both sides shouted at each other.
At a subsequent council meeting, members of the public, some from Fair Lawn and some from other locations, decried the borough's officers as racists and called for the police chief to resign.
On Sept. 11, at the borough's annual 9-11 ceremony, Mayor Peluso told police they could not participate in the ceremony if they wore thin blue line masks.