Prince George's County Police Chief John W. Rhoads fired Lt. Ralph M. Baker yesterday for "failing to take appropriate action after learning of a felony" Dec. 21.

In firing Baker, 37, a 17-year veteran of the force, Rhoads followed the unanimous recommendation of a three-man administrative trial board. The panel found Baker guilty June 28 of failing to take action or file a report later after observing a breaking and entering at a District Heights drugstore in December.

Baker was assistant deputy duty officer the night of the break-in.

According to the charges, "Baker's actions and inactions hindered the criminal investigation of the incident."

"I think it's shocking that a man with 17 years on the force and an excellent record prior to this should be fired for being procedurally incorrect," Baker's lawyer, Samuel L. Serio, said yesterday. "We conceded that he had made a mistake in not filling out all the proper forms but I think it's a rough punishment."

Baker was charged after allegedly stopping two juveniles near the scene of the break-in and, failing to find evidence on them, taking them home. Several of the stolen items were found near where Baker stopped the juveniles and it was learned later that the two had simply dropped them when they saw Baker coming.

Baker is the second officer fired by Rhoads in the last month. On June 21, based on another trial board's recommendation, he fired Officer Peter F. Morgan for violating general orders when he fatally shot a fleeing shoplifting suspect Dec. 24.

Baker can appeal the dismissal in county circuit court. Serio said he and Baker had not decided if they would appeal. Baker is the highest ranking officer dismissed since Rhoads became chief.