The question in this case is who has the authority to appoint or assign Little Falls police officers to the Detective Bureau -- the Township Committee or the Chief of Police? Plaintiffs, the Passaic County Prosecutor and Chief Bernard Terranova, assert that the Chief has this power pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:14-118(c); defendants, Mayor Frederick DeFuria and the Township Committee, contend that by ordinance the governing body of a municipality may reserve this authority to itself. There is a justiciable controversy since the Chief and Township Committee disagree on the filling of recent vacancies in the Detective Bureau. Widespread interest in this issue is apparent from Little Falls counsel's compilation of ordinances in 113 municipalities: nine (9) purport to give the power to the Chief of Police, 46 reserve the power to the governing body, and 58 are silent as to detectives or detective bureaus.
Little Falls Ordinance No. 500 provides, in pertinent part:
2. A detective bureau is hereby established which shall consist of detectives appointed from time to time as hereinafter provided.
3. The position of detective is hereby established. A detective shall conduct criminal investigations while in civilian clothing and shall conduct preparation of cases for prosecution and perform such other duties as are from time to time assigned by the Chief of Police.
4. Detectives shall be appointed by the Chief of Police with the approval of the Township Committee. A Patrolman who has been appointed as detective by the Chief of Police with the approval of the Township Committee shall continue to serve as a detective until his appointment is terminated by the Chief of Police with the approval of the Township Committee.
5. A Patrolman appointed as a detective shall receive the same salary as he would receive as a Patrolman unless the Township Committee, by ordinance, provides additional or different compensation for a detective.
7. There shall be two (2) detectives in the detective bureau. In the event of a vacancy in the detective bureau, the Chief of Police shall, within thirty (30) days of the occurrence of the vacancy, appoint a detective to fill the vacancy. In the event that the appointment of the Chief is not approved by the Township
Committee within thirty (30) days of the date of the appointment by the Chief, then the power of appointment shall pass to the Township Committee and the Township Committee may make an appointment directly.
Township counsel has further advised that Ordinance No. 500 was amended, on final reading May 7, 1984, as follows:
1. Section 4 of the ordinance to which this ordinance is an amendment is amended to read: "Detectives shall be appointed by the Chief of Police with the approval of the Township Committee."
2. Section 7 of the ordinance to which this ordinance is an amendment is amended to read: "There shall be two ...