One month after the resignation of its innovative police chief, Arlington County yesterday raised from the ranks a demanding, tradition oriented officer to command its 377-member police force.

The promotion of William K. (Smokey) Stover, 48, a 22-year veteran of the county police, appeared to be a move by County Manager W. Vernon Ford to place the force back under the reign of a man who has closer ties to his officers than his predecessor did.

Stover will replace Roy C. McLaren, who was regarded as one of the most innocative police chiefs in the Washington area. However, McLaren, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] resigned to pursue studies in England, was regarded as being aloof and a stranger by some members of his force.

Yesterday, as Ford introduced Stover at a meeting of other Arlington officers who had applied for the chief's job. Ford encouraged them to work closely with Stover. "Better decisions are made if they aren't made in the ivory tower," Ford said.

Stover has little college education, but Ford said in an interview yesterday that the appointment was not a retreat from the county's commitment to require college-educated officers. "It seems to me that in the course of 20 years of experience he (Stover) has probably compensated" for his lack of a college degree, Ford said.

Stover's appointment to the $35,000-a-year position is effective immediately, county officials said.

McLaren, who was the first Arlington chief to be picked from outside the county force, was one of a number of area police chief's regarded as innovative and national experts in police administration because they have stressed the social importance of police work. Among them are Montgomery County Chief Robert J. diGrazia and Prince George's County Chief John W. Rhoads.

Ford said he did not seek outside candidates because he believed good candidates were available in Arlington. "At this time in history the community would best be served by somebody from within . . ." Ford said. "I felt I had a choice."

Ford made his announcement to a group of the department's captains, lieutenants and sergeants, who had all been invited to apply for the job.

Stover, who had often served as acting chief when McLaren was out of town, said he hopes to improve communications with his officers and suggested that he may establish regular meetings with spokesmen for officers.

Stover's appointment did not surprise many of the officers in the department, who said he has always been powerful in department politics. Most said they were pleased that Ford had appointed someone from within the department, but some expressed concern that Stover is regarded as a taskmaster.

Stover joined the Arlington Police Department as a patrolman in 1956, and was promoted to sergeant 10 years later. He was promoted to captain in 1976, and has headed the operations department, which directs 80 percent of the officers on the force, for the past two years.

Stover said he has no plans for any immediate major changes in the department. He said his first priority will be to appoint two people to the captain positions vacated by him and retiring Capt. Alvin A. Fuchsman. Then he said he would review the present programs and staffing levels.

"I think we should stick with things we've had success with," he said.

"We have a good department," he said. "We have a lot of good people. All I want them (the officers) to do is give me as close to 100 percent as they can."