One Fairfax County police officer has been cleared and a second officer ordered transferred after an internal investigation of a melee involving the two men and members of a Groveton family last August, police said yesterday.

Police Chief Richard A. King said Officer James W. Cavender Jr., 29, a six-year veteran of the force, will be reassigned to unspecified duties outside the Groveton area as a result of the probe.

Cavender is "not really being punished, just reassigned," said King, who added that Cavender "could have used other options" to avoid the incident. w

The second officer, Jerry L. Bowers, 26, was cleared by police.

King ordered the probe of possible use of excessive force by the officers following newspaper accounts of the fracas, in which both officers and some family members suffered minor injuries.

A spokesman in the FBI's Alexandria office confirmed yesterday that an agent also is investigating possible use of excessive force by the patrolmen.

The incident occurred Aug. 10 after 20-year-old Timothy Rickman allegedly flashed his lights and honked his horn at a patrol car being driven by Cavender about 10:30 p.m.

Cavender followed Rickman into the family's driveway of 3408 Memorial Dr. The scuffle ensued when Rickman allegedly refused to be questioned and called for help. Cavender also radioed for assistance and Bowers came to the scene.

Rickman was charged with drunk driving and assault. Obstruction of justice and assault charges were brought against his father, Donald Rickman, his mother Arlene, and his stepbrother Daniel Mancini.

All of the charges were dismissed on Oct. 12 by Fairfax General District Court Judge Martin E. Morris, who cited a lack of evidence.

"They ought to put both (officers) behind the desk. Neither one of them are ready to work in the street," Arlene Rickman said yesterday.

"i couldn't expect much punishment even if they found them guilty. I'm surprised they're doing this much. This is like a police state. . . and they really protect their own," she said.