On March 29, 2001, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark decision requiring specific details of a police department table of organization to be in a police ordinance. The Supreme Court recognized that its interpretation of the statutory requirements was both so significant and at the same time so contrary to the then-prevailing interpretation that retroactively applying these requirements would undermine and invalidate a tremendous number of police appointments and promotions across the state. While the New Jersey Supreme Court thus gave its decision only prospective application, the court made no bones about the fact that police appointments and promotions from March 29, 2001 forward are invalid if the municipal police ordinance does not conform to the court’s surprising interpretation of the statutory requirements.
The Reuter decision is a potentially powerful tool for police and fire unions seeking to preserve the structure of their organizations by filling all vacancies. It thus also presents an important pitfall for police and fire administrations to be wary of and protect against when seeking to change the structure of the organization.
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