The Montgomery County police department has suspended the police powers of two pregnant female officers, depriving them of the power to make arrests in what was described as a move to protect the women and their unborn children.

It was the first time the department has suspended an officer's police powers on grounds of pregnancy since women joined the county force in 1972.

In the past, pregnant Montgomery officers were simply removed from hazardous duties such as street patrol.

"We can't see putting a pregnant officer in a situation where she has to arrest someone or make traffic stops and pulls a 200-pound man from a car crash," said police spokesman Nancy Moses. "We're removing those expectations."

The pregnant officers, deprived of their .38-caliber pistols, badges and identification credentials, have been assigned to desk jobs; their pay has not been reduced.

Lenny Simpson, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment until the department finishes a review of its entire disability policy, of which pregnancy is one aspect.

The only guidelines tthe department now has pertaining to pregnancy call for an officer to tell her supervisor she is pregnant as soon as she learns that she is. The guidelines then provide for assigning the officer to a desk job.She can be declared temporarily disabled and qualify for sick leave six weeks before delivery and up to eight weeks after her child is born.

Nothing in the regulations determines the extent to which a pregnant officer's police powers should be curtailed.

The decision to suspend the police powers of the two pregnant officers was made by their supervisors in consultation with other members of the department.