Responding to rescue concerns over last month's helicopter crash in the Washington Channel in which three people were killed and a fourth injured, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry yesterday ordered the police department's harbor patrol to begin carrying scuba diving equipment while on routine patrol.

Barry also ordered that 11 additional police officers be trained as divers and said that all firefighting personnel assigned to fireboats must receive enough swimming lessons to be certified as life guards.

However, he did not order scuba equipment placed on fireboats, saying that police should have the primary responsibility for water rescue efforts.

"Although the overall rescue effort was carried out in an exemplary fashion, one of the primary concerns was that of police department personnel who were on routine patrol at the time of the crash, but did not have scuba diving equipment about the vessel," the mayor said in a statement issued yesterday.

In the Aug. 21 incident, a commercial photographer and two passengers were killed when a helicopter plunged 100 feet into the Washington Channel. Only the pilot survived the crash.

Several horrified onlookers criticized the rescue effort after police and fire boats arrived at the crash site within three minutes of the accident, only to have to return to their docks because they had no diving equipment on board. The first victim was not pulled from the water by rescue personnel until 20 minutes after the crash.

Barry said the incident -- the first test of water rescue procedures since the Jan. 13, 1982, Air Florida crash into the Potomac River -- prompted him to form "an unusual Occurrence Task Force."

The task force, made up of representatives from the police and fire department and the Office of Emergency Preparedness, returned with four recommendations to the mayor. All four were adopted, the mayor said.

Barry said that "tt would be inconsistent . . . for the fire department to assume scuba diving responsibility because, among other factors, there could be situations where firefighters would be underwater when the fireboat would be needed elsewhere to fight fires on the waterways," the mayor said.

Deputy Chief Ray Alfred of the fire department said last night that the policy was the result of concern by the fire department. "We see prevention and suppression {of fires} as our primary responsibility," he said. "Unless the mayor decides different, we will continue to operate that way."

Barry ordered that scuba equipment will be carried on at least one harbor patrol boat on routine patrol. "Additionally, the police department is in the process of acquiring a new boat specifically designed for scuba diving rescue operations," he said.

A police spokeswoman said the department does not know how much the new guidelines will cost. The harbor patrol now has nine certified divers, and 13 other officers assigned to the special operations division are classified as certified divers, the mayor said.

Neither Police Chief Maurice Turner nor Deputy Chief Isaac Fulwood, who is in charge of field operations, could be reached for comment last night.

Barry's decision to order swimming lessons for firefighters came after an internal fire department memorandum disclosed last month that two firefighters assigned to fireboats do not know how to swim.