Prince George's County police arrested Larry W. Reich, a corporal in the District Heights Police Department, late Tuesday on a charge of sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy who had been placed temporarily in Reich's custody.

Reich, 33, second in command of the seven-member District Heights force, was released on his own recognizance after the youth complained he had been sexually assaulted on Oct. 19, county police said.

The youth had been placed with Reich pending a court hearing on a juvenile charge. He has since been turned over to a juvenile detention facility.

Charles T. Carlson, District Heights police chief, said yesterday that Reich, who had been with the force for almost three years, resigned late Tuesday after his arrest.

"He felt it would embarrass the police department. He was certainly correct about that," Carlson said. "What happens now is every policeman will be guilty in the eyes of the parents."

Reich, who lives in Forestville, could not be reached for comment. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Carlson said that in three years on the force, Reich had specialized in training town residents in crime prevention, particularly in methods of "burglar proofing" their homes.

Reich also had organized a "law enforcement Explorer post," similar to the Boy Scouts for boys and girls older than 15 who were interested in learning the fundamentals of police work.

James Dedes, head of the division of juvenile services in Prince George's, which places in custody youths awaiting court hearings, would not comment. He did say that juvenile services usually finds "an acquaintance of some nature" for custody placements but investigates the home before placement of the youth actually occurs.

Dedes said charges of sexual abuse in custody arrangement are "uncommon. Believe me, this is the exception."