John E. Drass, 48, the chief police of Falls Church, died of cancer Sunday at his home in Falls Church.

Chief Drass had headed the Falls Church police since 1974, when he took the job after a 20-year career in the D.C. police department. In Falls Church, he was credited with streamlining procedures in the department and cracking down on massage parlors, which began to proliferate there in the early 1970s.

Chief Drass rose to the rank of captain in the D.C. police department and was second-in-command of its internal affairs unit before his retirement in 1973. In 1969, he had been detailed to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

A police spokesman said it was discovered that Chief Drass had cancer when he was hospitalized a few months ago for treatment of a back injury.

Capt. Stanley K. Johnson Jr. was appointed acting chief pending appointment of a successor for Chief Drass.

In 1972, while a member of the D.C. police department, Chief Drass was fined $1,500 by a police trial board for borrowing $2,000 from Robert Byrd, a nightclub operator who later was convicted of assault with intent to kill. He had repaid the money with interest. He said he had borrowed it to pay hospital expenses incurred by his wife.

Despite this incident, his last efficiency report as captain gave him a rating of "exceptional/outstanding." When he took the job in Falls Church, Chief Drass said he was leaving the D.C. police without animosity.

Chief Drass was born in Altoona, Pa. His family moved to Washington when he was a child and he graduated from Gonzaga High School here. He attended the University of Maryland and was a Navy flyer during the Korean conflict before beginning his police career.

Survivors include a daughter, Carol, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Drass, all of the home in Falls Church.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Holy Angels Home for the mentally retarded, Shreveport, La. CAPTION: Picture, John E. Drass, 1969 Photo