Prince George's County Police Chief John W. Rhoads, thought to be on his way out when Lawrence J. Hogan was elected county executive, will remain as chief at least until July when he is eligible for retirement, sources said yesterday.

Police union officers and county officials have been urging Hogan to retain Rhoads, despite the fact that he was the subject of a unanimous "no confidence" vote by his officers last summer. Since the vote, taken in the midst of a contract dispute, many police officers have softened their view of the embattled chief, and now say, at least "he's a known quantity."

Police officers compaigned hard for Hogan, and their views, along with those of other county officials, are expected to be taken seriously by the incoming executive.

Neither Hogan nor Rhoads would comment on the subject, but sources said Rhoads quite possibly would stay beyond July when he will have completed 20 years' service in the department and be eligible for retirement.

"John has weathered quite a storm," union president Laney Hester said yesterday. "There were a lot of strong feelings against him this past summer and during the fall.

"I think the main feeling among many of the men was that John didn't stand up and support them when they needed him most during the shooting (of two police officers in the Hyattsville station) and the contract dispute.

"That's a deficiency but it's a known deficiency. And I think John learned a lot from that experience. We don't want to get rid of him and end up with someone like (Montgomery County Chief Robert J.) diGrazia."

Asked about Rhoads. Hogan said he "never trades in rumors," and wants to sit down and discuss the entire department with the chief after he takes office Monday.

But informed sources said Hogan has decided to retain Rhoads while considering the idea of installing a public safety director -- a civilian who would be in charge of both the police and fire departments.

One name mentioned in connection with the public safety job was that of former D.C. police chief Maurice J. Cullinane. But Hogan's advisers told him that hiring Cullinane would start a controversy because Cullinane retired from his job in Washington on a disability pension.

Rhoads will not discuss his future in any detail, but asked where he plans on being employed next August, said, "Prince George's County Police Department."

Friends of Rhoads said he has adopted a "wait and see" attitude toward the Hogan administration. "If Hogan makes John's life impossible, he'll retire in July," one friend said. "But if he doesn't try to change things radically, John would like to stay at least two more years."

Rhoads became chief in 1975, and said then it would take five years to implement the changes he planned for the department. There is still a sizeable group of officers who would like to see Rhoads removed because of his image of "not supporting" his men.

But Leonard I. Colodny, who was supported vigorously in his unsuccessful state Senate campaign by the police union and is also close to Rhoads, thinks that many officers have been mollified.

"You have to understand that there were three major reasons for the no confidence vote," Colodny said. "First was the contract, second was the shootings, and third was John's firing of Peter Morgan (an officer who shot and killed a fleeing shoplifting suspect last Dec. 24).

"Well, the men got a contract they liked and now it looks like Morgan's going to be rehired. So they have two out of three. That helps a lot."