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Borough of Belmar Policemen''s Benevolent Association of Local 50 v. Borough of Belmar

Decided: May 2, 1980.


McGann, J.s.c.


The essential relief sought in this action in lieu of prerogative writs is a declaration that the Borough of Belmar, through its police chief, does not have the power to hire and assign "special" police officers to the usual duties of "regular" police officers. A resolution of that issue involves an understanding of what those terms mean and an interpretation of applicable statutes. The Attorney General and State P.B.A. have been admitted as amici curiae.

Belmar is a small community bordering on the Atlantic Ocean. Its year-round population is 5,782 (1970 census). The estimated 1978 population is 6,300. The borough has a police force of 21 members, comprised of a chief, three captains, four sergeants and 13 patrolmen. The terms and conditions of their employment are fixed by a collective bargaining agreement dated February 14, 1978 and currently in effect.

Outside of the summer months the size of the department is quite adequate to meet the need for a police function. A typical workday schedule for the 21 member department is as follows:

A) Four duty posts.

1) The Desk (headquarters) manned by a Sergeant.

2) A patrol car -- for general patrolling throughout the Borough.

3) A patrol car -- for general patrolling throughout the Borough.

4) Motorized Scooter -- for patrolling of the main business district of the Borough -- "F" Street.

These four posts manned for three shifts would occupy 12 men. Four men would be on their day off. (A five-day work week has been negotiated under the collective bargaining agreement.)

B) In addition, two men are assigned for the day to the detective division (essentially a two-shift post).

C) Two men would be on their annual vacation.

D) The Chief has no specifically designated duty post.

Men not scheduled for duty that day (either because it was one of their days off or because they were on annual vacation leave) could be pressed into service when needed and would then be paid overtime under the contract.

The summer season, with its very substantial influx of summer residents and visitors, gives rise to many problems requiring much more police activity than in the winter. Crowd control, particularly in the boardwalk area; concentration of people in local taverns; the increase in noise complaints stemming in part from group summer rentals, and an appreciable rise in disorderly persons and municipal ordinance violations, all point to the need for an increased police presence. Sensitive to that need but sorely constricted by fiscal ability and CAP law limitations, the response of the governing body in consultation with the chief was two-pronged. During the summers of 1977 and 1978 a "summer task force" was created. It consisted of four men and two police cars. Its purpose was to have a ready contingent of trained policemen to respond quickly to any emergent situation which might arise, such as a barroom brawl, a large and uncontrolled private party or a violent domestic quarrel. This task force was worked on a voluntary basis by the regular policemen. It existed on Friday, Saturday and holiday nights. Men who worked that detail were paid overtime under the collective bargaining agreement.

In addition to the "summer task force," and again in response to citizens' complaints, there was created, for the 1979 summer season, an "anti-noise detail." This consists of a police car with two men covering two shifts (2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.), seven days a week, to patrol the borough and spot and respond to incipient trouble. The trouble spots center about parties conducted by group rentals and summer tenants, as well as premises licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages. The "anti-noise detail" was intended to be a permanent organizational change for the summer months, whereas the "summer task force" was a voluntary (though compensated) effort mounted on Friday, Saturday, and holiday nights only.

The police chief, quite properly, deems it necessary to have experienced "regular" officers handle this detail. The judgment to place experienced officers in that car cannot be faulted. Those men, above all, could be expected to regularly confront volatile, violent and ugly situations requiring skilled, well-trained officers with level heads. Each man assigned had to be familiar with local ordinances as well as state statutes, accustomed to making arrests and handling people, and trained in the use of a Decibel meter-since keeping the noise level down at night was one of the principal functions of the patrol.

To make up the "anti-noise" patrol the three regular officers usually assigned to the motorized scooter post on "F" Street and the business district were utilized. The patrol car would operate from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. with one of these regulars in it, and from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. with the other two. The three shift vacancies on the "F" Street post had to be filled that the. The method used was to hire "special" officers. Plaintiffs argue that the borough may not legally hire "specials" for that purpose.

The "F" Street, business district post, is a most important one. The concentration of retail stores in the borough is there. A bank is located in that area as well as a motel and all-night diner. During the day shoppers crowd the area. At night, restaurants attract other people. The police are ...

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