Members of Rockville's Fraternal Order of Police are protesting a proposal that would enable city officials to recruit outside applicants for promotions or reassignments before considering qualified candidates within the police department.

The organization's opposition stems from allegations by Rockville Police Sgt. Carl Michael Keyser that the city violated its personnel law during its search for a qualified candidate to fill a newly created lieutenant's position. Keyser claims that officials wrongfully advertised for outside applicants for the position before notifying him of the job.

The personnel law states that officials must consider qualified candidates from within the city's existing work force before advertising for outside applicants.

Under a proposed amendment introduced at this week's City Council meeting, officials would be allowed to advertise for applicants before considering qualified candidates within the city. The amendment, however, "encourages" job placements from within the city's work force.

City Manager Larry N. Blick said the change was an effort to clarify the requirements for filling job vacancies. The way the law reads now, the city is required to fill a vacancy with a "sufficiently qualified" candidate.

The amendment would change "sufficiently qualified" to "best qualified," thereby assuring the hiring of the most qualified candidate, Blick said.

Besides the 32-member Rockville police force, the proposal would affect more than 200 nonunion city workers in several county agencies. The council is expected to act on the proposal at its Sept. 23 meeting.

Keyser's lawyer, Robert A. Greenberg, told the council that the city had advertised for the lieutenant's position in at least one regional publication before considering Keyser and three other sergeants for the job. Keyser has threatened to file suit against the city over its hiring and promotional practices.

"There are four sergeants in this city with more than 40 years of police experience among them who are well qualified for this job . . . , " Greenberg said.

Assistant City Manager Daniel Hobbs confirmed this week that the city advertised for the position before advising the four sergeants of the opening. The position has been withdrawn pending resolution of the matter.

In other Rockville news, City Council members Stephen N. Abrams and Douglas M. Duncan announced last week that they will seek reelection in the Nov. 5 election. Abrams said he plans to seek the nomination of the Independents for Rockville organization, which he has campaigned under for the past five years. Duncan, a former IFR member, said he is running independent of any political organization.