Two months after Police Chief Burtell Jefferson complained that city red tape prevented him from awarding contracts to minority businesses, the police department has opened negotiations for the purchase of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in vehicles from a black-owned firm.

Jefferson complained in a memorandum to the Department of General Services that administrative procedures tied his hands in giving more police department business to minority companies.

Only one minority firm, Seidel Chevrolet in Landover, was certified by the Minority Business Opportunity Commission to bid on the police contract for 137 cars and station wagons.Police department officials are negotiating terms of the contract, and a department source estimated the total cost could be as high as $700,000.

Capt. Isaac Fulwood, deputy director of the department's office of finance and management, said police officials are now negotiating five contracts, including the vehicle purchase, that could amount to more than $1 million in business for minority firms. The contracts, he said, are for uniform alterations, film developing, purchase of trucks and purchase of emergency lights for the tops of police vehicles.

"This (the vehicle contract) is going to be the largest contract from the department's perspective that has been awarded (to minorities)," said Fulwood. "I definitely think it is a good beginning."

A department source said Mayor Marion Barry played a critical role in pushing the vehicle contract through the tangle of red tape.