The Montgomery County police department, hiring its first recruits in more than 14 months, has selected three times as many minority male candidates as it did last year, officials said yesterday.

Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke last week approved the hiring of 34 police trainees, who include 12 women, 12 minority men and 10 white men, according to Charles W. Ebert, the department's personnel specialist.

The hiring of 24 female and minority prospective police officers represents a major success for the department's affirmative action program and is a dramatic increase over last year's hiring of four black male and 11 female trainees, police officials said.

"I don't know that we ever have been this successful" in reaching the department's affirmative action goals, said Sgt. Harry E. Geehreng, a department spokesman. The goals are to have each recruit class one-third women and one-third minorities.

Those goals were criticized yesterday by police union president Walter E. Bader, who called them "arbitrary figures that amount to a quota system." Bader said the policy violates the intent of county personnel rules designed to ensure equal employment opportunity.

Montgomery's 766-member police force now has 643 white males, 44 black males and 10 Hispanic, Indian and Asian-American males; and 60 white and nine black females, Gheereng said. Last June, the county hired 39 officer candidates: 24 white and four black men, as well as seven white and four black women.

This year's recruits, who will be paid at an annual rate of $17,715 while attending a 19-week training academy in Rockville, include two Hispanics, two Asian-Americans and 10 black males, officials said.

There are no black females in the class.

Several police officials who asked not to be named said yesterday they were reluctant to discuss affirmative action hiring, in part from a pending lawsuit filed against the department by a coalition of black officers. The black officers claimed in the suit, filed in March, that prejudice has barred scores of blacks from being accepted on the force or from being promoted.

Geerheng hailed this year's crop of recruits as evidence of Crooke's and County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist's commitment to affirmative action.