Angry black and white D.C. police officials moved yesterday to rescind a surprise vote by a police organization to file a formal complaint asserting that Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson discriminates against white officers in top-level promotions.

The police officials said they would ask the board of directors of the Metropolitan Police Officials Association to reject the vote or call for a fullmembership referendum on the issue. The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday.

Only 60 members of the association's more than 200 members attended the meeting Thursday night at the police 5th District headquarters. Fewer than 45 were present when the vote was taken to file the complaint.

The associationhs membership is limited to officers with the rank of lieutenant or above.

The vote Thursday night also charged that Jefferson's "totally discretionary" promotions for captain and higher are made without regard for qualifications.

"I feel certain that had the members known they were going to discuss an issue of this magnitude, there would have been greater attendance," Lt. Larry D. Soulsby said.

Soulsby, who is white, said he left the members "weren't fully aware that they were going to be asked to vote on this issue."

Officials and board members of the association referred all inquiries to attorney Jerome G. Tankel, counsel for the organization. Tankel could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But Tankel had said Thursday that the meeting was a "healthy discussion of the issues" involved and that "there was a sensitivity to the racial issue."

Chief Jefferson's office declined comment on the issue. Tankel said the complaint would be presented to the police department equal employment office. He said he expected it to be heard by the D.C. Department of Human Rights and the federal U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Tankel said the complaint was sparked by Police Inspector Charles Light, commander of the morals division, who told the association that Jefferson's policies had unfairly held back white career officials.

Light, who is white, declined to discuss his role in the complaint.