A federal judge in Alexandria yesterday dismissed a suit in which a white Arlington police officer argued that the county's police promotion policy constituted "reverse discrimination" because it gave some blacks with lower test scores preference over higher-scoring whites.

U.S. District Court Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. dismissed the suit, which was brought in March by Officer Thomas J. Wise, who contended the police department's affirmative action program was unconstitutional and illegal because it was tied to "quota systems." The county has denied that allegation, maintaining that the promotional system merely establishes "goals."

"The decision was of no great surprise," said Arlington Police Chief William K. Stover. "I felt very comfortable that we had done the right thing from an administrative point of view and from a legal point of view. The promotional system will remain in place."

Wise could not be reached for comment yesterday. His attorney, Robert L. Tomlinson, said the case would be appealed.

"The promotional system was validated," said Cynthea L. Perry, an assistant county attorney. "The judge found no adverse impact for whites or blacks from the promotional exam."

The examination was developed late last year as part of an antidiscrimination agreement the county signed with seven black police officers who sued the county, claiming racial bias in hiring and promotions.

The out-of-court agreement provided for an accelerated promotional system designed to redress "the historical imbalances" of minorities and women on the force. About 25 percent of the department's 290 members are minorities or women.

The promotion plan stated that the pool of eligible officers would consist of the five top-ranked applicants or 20 percent of them -- whichever number was higher -- together with the three highest-ranking blacks, women or other underrepresented groups on the force.

Wise placed 22nd in the test for the rank of corporal, which was administered last February, the first exam under the new system. Two black officers who did not finish as high as Wise were promoted ahead of him because they were among the three highest-ranking blacks.

Tomlinson said Wise wants the system invalidated and is not asking that the promotions be rescinded.