Sitting in his fifth floor field operations office at police headquarters, Maurice T. Turner Jr., tall, broad-shouldered and athletic, says with certainty, in his deep, resonant voice, that his job is a direct route to the chief's office next door.

One flight down, Marty Tapscott, broad-faced, light eyes carefully assessing his audience as he carefully measures every word, is equally confident that his position, head of administrative services, is the right one. cThey both want to be police chief.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Burtell Jefferson said again this week that he has no intention of retiring soon, that he likes the job and gets along well with the mayor. He even cautions a visitor that, when he is replaced, the search should be broad. Yet he realizes that the talk throughout the department surrounding his replacement centers on Tapscott and Turner.

Turner, 44, his second in command as assistant police chief in charge of field operations, has reportedly attracted a cadre of police supporters who are offering him their loyalty and support in hopes of promotion to high-ranking spots if he becomes chief.

Noting his ability to get along with his men and his excellent record for quick decision-making, they believe he is next in line for the job.

At the same time, Tapscott, 43, also an assistant police chief, is described as a "thoughtful decision-maker," and one who "gets the best out of his men." Tapscott's supporters are also weighing their fortunes with the prospect that he will become police chief.

Many police officers agree that the mayor can't miss if he chooses either man. Both have spent more than 20 years holding District commands, heading the juvenile and recruitment sections, and have been administrative officers. And, just as importantly in this affirmative-action oriented city, both are black.

While Turner appears to be eager about the prospect of becoming police chief, his loyalty to Jefferson is tempering that excitement.

"There is one spot left -- police chief. I have had that dream and desire.

I think would be efficient . . . But I can wait . . . I'm in no hurry." i

Tapscott, weighing the politics of his statement, said his next promotion rests with the mayor: "The mayor will choose whomever he feels most comfortable with. If he feels most comfortable with Turner, the next police chief will be Turner. If he feels more comfortable with Tapscott, I will be the next chief."

However, Tapscott said he is not directly competing with Turner for the chief's job: "We may be competing from the standpoint that we both like to excel, but I would not hinder Turner or compete against him for the police chief's job. If he became chief, he would be an excellent chief. He knows my position. Whether he is chief or I am, we will need each other."

Almost in the same breath, Tapscott said his job as administrative services officer was more important in terms of running the total operation of the police department and more similiar to the police chief's job than Turner's.

Each of the two -- the highest ranking blacks after Jefferson -- points to his key accomplishments.

During the tense days of Resurrection City in 1968, Maurice Turner was the only Metropolitan Police Officer who could freely walk inside the tent city and talk to the civil rights leaders camped there.

And in 1977, it was Turner who maintained constant communication with the Hanafi Muslims as they held 124 captives at the Islamic Center during the siege.

"You just seem to develop a knack for communicating with these types of individuals," he explained.

Tapscott's key success was quelling racial turmoil involving black and white officers and the community at 7th District headquarters in Northeast Washington about three years ago.

Those familiar with the situation said Tapscott went into a mine field of major racial problems and survived only because of his savvy and his subordinates' belief in his fairness.

In each case, Turner and Tapscott have moved up in rank to the most key positions in the police department. Turner's position as field operations officer puts him in charge of 2,700 of the police department's 4,100 officers. And Tapscott, in charge of administrative services is responsible for areas including personnel, discipline, labor relations, community relations, trainng and planning.

Turner's job is considered by some in the department one that places him next in line for the police chief's job. It was the job held by Jefferson as well as former police chiefs Maurice Cullinane and Jerry V. Wilson, who all moved from head of field operations to become chief.

Tapscott's move up the ranks has apparently made him highly image conscious, say both his supporters and critics. He is particularly careful about what he says and how he says it.

Those who know him are in two schools of thought. One group says he is so image conscious that he comes across as hesitant in decision-making, lacking aggression, and pensive.

Those who work under him, however, said he makes thoughtful decisions.

Tapscott, who admits being image-conscious, explained, "Sure I care what people think about me. I am sure there are those who support me because of my decisions and there are those who don't. What should be clear is that Jefferson supported me and had enough confidence in me to put me in one of the most sensitive positions in the police department."

While Turner is generally praised for his ability to react positively in sensitive situations, some police officers who have worked with him say he has a bad temper.

"Turner is liable to go 180 degrees in the wrong direction when he gets angry," said a former police official who added that nonetheless Turner is the best man to replace Jefferson when he resigns.

Turner said that the criticism is the result of his stern leadership and that those who most often witness his temper are those police officers who have failed to be sensitive to the public or to their subordinates.

One high-ranking official in the department said Turner is the type of police officer who will first politely order a civilain to step back behind police lines. If the person refuses, "Turner will walk up to him and whisper in his ear, 'If you don't move, I will kick your ass,'" said the official.

Turner, who is divorced and has three children, lives in the affluent Crestwood neighborhood in Upper Northwest Washington. Tapscott lives in Prince George's County, but he is planning to move in the next two weeks back into the District. Both he and Turner earn about $50,000 a year. w

Turner grew up on the 700 block of Girard Street NW and was a member of the Police Boys and Girls Club in that neighborhood. He is a graduate of Dunbar High School. Tapscott was graduated from Spingarn High School, and played basketball on the same championship team with Elgin Baylor in 1954.

Six months after graduating from Dunbar, Turner joined the U.S. Marine Corps "because they said it would make me a man." Six months later he was in Korea, "asking myself why I joined in the first place." He was assigned to the infantry and special amphibious vehicle section.

Tapscott chose the Air Force and became a clerk-typist. He played basketball on the military base team most of the time, he said.

A 1978 graduate of American University with a degree in police administration, Tapscott earned his degree as a part-time student while holding a full-time job at the police department.His degree -- and a newspaper clipping of the Bullets World Championship victory -- hangs framed on his office wall.

Turner started in the police department in 1957 as a foot patrolman on 7th Street NW near New York Avenue NW. He quickly found that his opportunities on the police force were severely limited. "Blacks could not even ride in patrol cars with whites," he said.

There were only a handful of blacks in the upper ranks, Turner added, explaining, "A black sergeant had to die or retire before another black was promoted."

When Tapscott came to the Police Department in 1959, he, like Turner found there were restraints placed on blacks rising in the department. And he, like Turner, moved up in the ranks and made an effort to improve the plight of blacks by making controversial assignments putting both blacks and whites in squad cars.

But Tapscott, unlike Turner, developed a reputation as a militant, according to some high-ranking officials in the department, who said he was particularly vocal when he saw discrimination. They say the militant label became a stigma in the conservative upper ranks of the police department and caused him problems.

Tapscott explained, however, that he never considered himself a militant. "No one in authority called me militant. All I know is that when I found discrimination in the police department based on race, I fought it -- and I think I fought it successfully."

Later, however, Tapscott said he understood why some officials called him militant: "I fought officials above me tooth and nail. I was not going to sit back and take things without fighting. At least that way I could sleep at night."

Chief Jefferson said Turner and Tapscott would naturally be included on his nomination list for a possible successor, but there are other candidates in the department as well.

He added that those eager to take his job still have plenty of time to wait:

"I have certain goals and objectives I want to accomplish in the Police Department before I leave."