A temporary court order returned Police Chief Daryl Gates to work but left unanswered the question: Who in City Hall controls the Police Department?

Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian on Monday reinstated Gates pending an April 25 hearing. The ruling sets aside last week's vote by the Police Commission to put Gates on paid leave while the videotaped police beating of a black motorist is investigated.The judge told both sides to prepare arguments on whether the City Council has the authority to reinstate Gates over the Police Commission's objections.

Gates was expected back at work Tuesday.

"I think it's time to cool it," he said after the ruling. "Let's get together. Let's get this city back together."

The judge's ruling came after Gates filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement and after civil rights groups sued to prevent him from returning to his duties.

The dispute is an unprecedented power struggle between the City Council and the Police Commission, which is appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley. The outcome could reshape city government, officials say.

"The legal question is far-reaching," said Jane Ellison, legal counsel for the mayor.

The city charter does not give the council authority to overrule commissions. But the Police Commission's vote on Thursday to suspend Gates so angered the council that it reached for a creative legal maneuver to stop it.

Invoking its authority to settle all lawsuits against the city, the council voted 10-3 on Friday to reinstate Gates as part of a settlement of the lawsuit he filed three days later.

"What a scholar of the charter would say is that the City Council can't, through the threat of litigation, obtain powers it doesn't already have," Ellison said.

City Council President John Ferraro sees it differently.

"We have the authority to settle lawsuits," Ferraro said.

The Police Commission is so concerned by the reversal that members are considering resigning en masse, the Los Angeles Times reported.