FAIR LAWN — A noose found in a Fair Lawn tree on Saturday night is under investigation as a possible hate crime even though a police official at first downplayed the incident.

Mayor Kurt Peluso told New Jersey 101.5 on Monday that a Black resident called police after seeing what looked like a noose in her front yard.

A police spokesman initially told the Daily Voice Fair Lawn/Glen Rock that the incident did not appear to be a hate crime. He said the knot was made of polypropylene string that had been used by utility workers who had been dispatched to the area to deal with downed wires.

But Peluso said that the explanation did not hold up because he spoke with  representatives of PSE&G, Verizon and Alltice on Sunday, who all denied it was them.

"I spoke to the borough manager who contacted the sergeant who who wasn't too pleased about the quote that came out," Peluso said.

Police did not respond on Monday morning to New Jersey 101.5's inquiry about the incident.

"They didn't do that kind of work. If you look at the rope, it's not rope that a utility company would use. Those are the only three utilities that work on the wires in Fair Lawn," Peluso said, adding that the Verizon representative told him it was "ridiculous" that they would use a rope like the one found in the tree.

Peluso dismissed a suggestion it was left by the borough's shade tree division.

"It's just kind of sad. You're seeing a situation that affected a resident in our neighborhoods and we have other residents who want to make excuses of what it is," Peluso said.

The borough has a population of more than 33,000 people of which nearly 5,000 are Latino, about 4,000 are of Asian descent and less than 1,000 are Black.

The mayor praised the police department's handling of this case.

Back in September, however, he and the police were at odds after he asked officers attending a 9/11 remembrance ceremony to remove their masks, which had an American flag and a thin blue line — a pro-police symbol that has become politically charged because some see it at odds with efforts to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

At the time, the mayor said he had attended a rally in August that "went in the wrong direction" when Bergen County's rapid deployment team had to be dispatched to a Borough Hall vigil that devolved into a shouting match between Black Lives Matters protesters and supporters of law enforcement.

PBA Local 67 President Stephen Cannici called the mayor's decision at the time "disrespectful" but said members complied.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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