Citing alarm over reports of "severe deficiencies" in the D.C. police department's drug screening program, the union that represents most D.C. firefighters asked Mayor Marion Barry yesterday to halt drug testing of firefighters and suspend any disciplinary actions based on tests.

Union lawyers also warned Barry that depending on the outcome of an internal police department investigation of the program, they may request reconsideration of the estimated 10 cases in which firefighters have been fired or resigned under pressure after urine samples examined by the police department tested positive for drugs.

Yesterday's action by the International Association of Firefighters Local 36 was the prelude to what attorneys, union officials and some police officers and firefighters said will be a wave of individual and class actions brought against the city on behalf of police officers or firefighters who have been screened at the police clinic since the testing began in 1982.

"The situation is ripe for lawsuits. I would anticipate it because people sue for a lot less," said Beverly J. Burke, special counsel to the D.C. corporation counsel.

Since mid-August, the drug screening program has been under investigation by an in-house panel of police officials, after allegations of serious flaws in the testing procedures were brought to the mayor and U.S. attorney's office by two workers at the clinic.

Barry yesterday said he had not read the letter, but added: "Even when I see the letter, I'm not going to spend much time on it. I'm spending my time in getting jobs for young people and adults, helping senior citizens and rebuilding neighborhoods."

"If they {firefighters} weren't using drugs, they wouldn't be worried about urine coming up dirty," Barry continued.

"The union ought to be concentrating on getting young people jobs, like I am, and fighting fires."

Spokesmen for the police and fire departments said that top officials had not had the opportunity to review the letter and would reserve comment until they had analyzed the union's request.

The clinic whistle-blowers -- Officer Vernon Richardson and civilian employe Marguerite Anastasi -- alleged that clinic and police officials were engaged in "a systematic effort to subvert the integrity of the drug testing procedures . . . so that desired results can be obtained."

They also alleged "gross misconduct and possible criminal violations" by police officials, including bribery, tampering with physical evidence and violations of standards of conduct.

Anastasi and Richardson, who, along with dozens of other witnesses, have testified in closed sessions of the police panel, also have alleged that police officials tampered with the positive test result of at least one official up for promotion. In addition, they asserted in other documents that urine samples were left in unsecured or unrefrigerated places and that documents were discovered missing and altered.

An internal police department review of the drug screening program two years ago identified similar problems, including missing and altered documents, breaches of security and shoddy record-keeping. The report noted that urine samples and equipment were left unattended during testing and that drug-screening records were discovered missing from confidential files, then were returned, altered, to the files.

Except for police officers, firefighters, ambulance workers and members of the public schools' transportation system, such as bus drivers, mechanics and bus attendants, D.C. city workers are not routinely tested for drugs, according to District officials.

Public school transportation workers are tested by private laboratories under contract to the city, but tests of police officers and firefighters are done at the Police and Fire Clinic at 2 D.C. Village Lane SW, which is run by the police department.

For police officers and firefighters, drug screening tests are required of new recruits, those up for promotion and those accused of substance abuse. The tests are also a routine part of yearly physicals given to officers and firefighters 35 years and older.

Police officers are subject to termination after one positive urine test by the police screening clinic is confirmed by an outside lab, and at least 40 officers have lost their jobs because of allegedly tainted urine in the last five years.

Firefighters who test positive at the clinic are placed in a drug treatment program and given an indefinite number of opportunities for retesting until their tests are negative for drugs.

"If there is any playing with the samples or switching . . . if even one individual is incorrectly disciplined or terminated as a result of any impropriety in the testing system, that's one too many," Tom Tippett, president of Local 36, said yesterday.

Daniel G. Faison, a 14-year veteran firefighter, said that he and seven other firefighters whose urine has tested positive for drugs plan to file a negligence suit against the city within two weeks.

Maintaining that he has not used any illegal drugs for more than two years but has tested positive at the clinic seven times since last fall, Faison said: "Since I've been going down to the clinic {for} a year, I've seen the door unlocked to the bathroom, the window open and the urine left by the window. I honestly believe that if someone down there wants you to be dirty, you'll end up dirty."