Mayor tells cops not to wear ‘thin blue line’ masks at 9/11 service
FAIR LAWN — Police officers were told to remove their "thin blue line" masks before a 9/11 remembrance ceremony on Friday.
In a post on its Facebook page, Fair Lawn PBA Local 67 said Mayor Kurt Peluso "politicized the 9/11 memorial service" by having police chief Glen Cauwels tell officers participating officers to "remove their thin blue line face covering."
Several officers had planned to wear masks featuring black and white American flags with one stripe in blue — a common symbol of support for police sometimes associated with the slogan "blue lives matter."
Peluso told New Jersey 101.5 a rally on Aug. 3 that "went in the wrong direction" prompted his decision about the masks.
According to NorthJersey.com coverage of the Aug. 3 event, Bergen County's rapid deployment team was called in by police when a planned vigil at the Borough Hall devolced into a shouting match between Black Lives Matters protesters and supporters of law enforcement.
"There were a lot of hate groups here with their flags and banners, which really didn't replicate what our community is. There's some issues some of the residents had with the Blue Lives Matter flag," Peluso said. "Our chief, borough attorney and assistant borough manager at the time had a conversation and decided it was best not to wear them and go in different direction."
Peluso said he saw the 9/11 ceremony as a chance to "all rally around the American flag and come together as a community. I mentioned to the chief I'd prefer if they didn't wear those masks (at the ceremony) so we could stand together as a community."
"What's really touching for me about 9/11 is the American flag. It's something we all really appreciate during that time," Peluso said.
NJ State PBA president Patrick Colligan disagrees with the mayor's decision.
"The Thin Blue Line is now apparently divisive because a group said it was and a white supremacy group flew it at a rally some time ago. It is nothing more than a source of pride within our profession," Colligan said in a text to New Jersey 101.5. "Mayor Peluso should have done some basic research before he jumped on the misinformation band wagon. We lost 37 members of the Port Authority police on 9/11."
Peluso said he has friends who are members of the NYPD, and said that at the 9/11 ceremony at Ground Zero members of the force did not wear similar masks.
"We understand there are some political issues at this time and this is a day for us all to come together. I think the NYPD really set the tone and I think everyone should listen to them when it comes to 9/11," Peluso said.
PBA Local 67 president Stephen Cannici said members were told at the ceremony by Cauwels they could not wear the masks.
"The chief came down before the services began and told the officers that were present for the honor guard and any other uniformed officers that they could not wear those masks during the services," Cannici said.
"I was not there for this but I'm sure they were not happy about it but they did comply with the order of the police chief," Cannici said.
Cannici called the mayor's decision "disrespectful."
"We are united behind one flag. The thin blue line flag represents the law enforcement officers who have given their lives protecting the citizens of the country," Cannici said. "For me it's just a respectful thing of showing honor to people who would give up their lives."
Peluso said that the borough has always had a great relationship with its police during his nine years in elected office, and he is pleased with what they've accomplished together.
"I had a conversation this morning with our police chief and that's what we're going to continue to do. Have conversations and work together. I'm confident things will get better from here," Peluso said.