The D.C. police officer who is seeking a sex-change operation has been placed on sick leave by the department after refusing to stop hormone treatments that develop female traits and refusing to undergo psychotherapy.

The officer was placed on sick leave Jan. 27 by order of retiring assistant chief Tilmon B. O'Bryant. As of today his sick leave is used up and he will be on leave without pay.

The department must decide whether it wants to try to fire the officer, retire him or allow him to return to active duty.

The officer, who asked not to be identified, is now living full-time in the role of a woman and goes to and from his home dressed as a woman. Until being placed on sick leave he was going to work in a suit and tie. Now he says he will return to work dressed only as a woman.

"Until November everything seemed to be going fine," he said recently. "Then on Nov. 8, I was transferred back to (his former) district [he had been working on the Sting Operation] and put in personnel. That was okay, but then they started pressuring me.

"Before I was transferred I had met with chief O'Bryant. He really had me fooled. He gave me the impression they were going to try and work on the problem.

"I was optimistic, even after they put me inside. I thought they were going to give this some time, see how it might work out. I was willing to compromise then. Now they'll take me this way [as a woman] or not at all."

According to the officer he was told in a Dec. 12 meeting in O'Bryant's office that the department wanted him to stop hormone treatments and undergo psychotherapy to "lead me back to masculinity."

"Their doctors told me there was a 50-50 chance they could succeed," he said. "My doctors think it's a waste of time. They [the department] didn't give me any option, just an ultimatum. Do it their way."

O'Bryant, who is retiring March 1, said he did not wish to comment on the case since he is no longer handling it. "It's not in my hands anymore," he said. Other officials were reluctant to discuss the case, saying that would invade the officer's privacy.

"I understand their problem," the officer said. "They're in a precedent-setting situation. The police department has always been like a family to me. They've always taken care of me. I enjoy police work and I've benefited from the pay.

"I don't envy them their decision, I know it's difficult. But it isn't easy for me either. I imagine they don't envy me my decision either."

In his seven years on the department, the officer, who is 34, has received 18 commendations. He has been a station clerk, walked a beat, worked in a scout car and, from March 1976 until his transfer back to his old district, worked on two of the "Sting" police undercover operations.

The officer feels his record on the force should be taken into consideration. "If I had been a trouble-maker or a problem I could understand their not being willing to take a chance," he said.

A spokesman for Chief Burtell M. Jefferson said the chief could not comment until a decision is made on what action the department will take and that he did not know when action would be taken.

"The officer is an active member of the police department on sick leave at the moment," he said last week. "Both our lawyers and doctors at the clinics are continuing to monitor the situation." He would not elaborate.

Dr. Benjamin Waxman, associate chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at George Washington University Hospital who has been treating the officer, said, "Physically there is no reason why he can't perform his police duties up to 100 percent capability right now," he added that the officer was physically ready to have the operation.

One of the reasons the officer has not had the operation is because his psychiatrist has advised that he wait until his situation with the department has been resolved.

Once he is on leave without pay Monday, the officer can seek work elsewhere. His attorney has been informed in writing that as of now the officer is considered disabled, according to police and the officer. That is why he is on sick leave.

"I don't see anything disabling about my condition," the officer said. "It just makes some of them uncomfortable. I'm a working cop. No one has given me a chance to do my job as a woman. Until they do they won't know if I can do it, and neither will I."

The officer says it is imperative he get a job quickly after Monday since he has three children, all in their preteen years. He is a widower. He said he will seek a job as a woman.

"I'll find some kind of work," he insisted. "I don't have any choice in the matter. I have three kids to feed."

The officer's attorney has told him that she expects the department to act soon since she has informed them the officer is willing to go to court to force a decision.

"Legally I don't see how they can fire me, since I haven't broken any rules or gotten into any trouble," he said.

"So far they've only given me only one option [giving up the sex-change treatments] and I'm not going to take that one," he said.

"One way or the other I would like to get this resolved soon. The department seems to look on this as an administrative matter. There's a lot more at stake for me though. They don't seem to understand that."