D.C. police officers and their wives who said they wanted to move out of the city because of bad housing, bad neighborhoods and bad schools encountered an angry response yesterday from members of the D.C. Council at a hearing on the District law requiring city employes to be city residents.

"I was single when I joined the police department," said Officer Michael Wilson, 28, who grew up in Northeast Washington and still lives there, "but now that I'm married, it's really hard to raise my family in a proper environment . . . . I have a 2-year-old daughter and I'm constantly afraid for her safety. I'm afraid for my wife."

Anganette Douglas, a police officer's wife, said shots were fired into her house in Southeast Washington during the summer and that people have warned her husband not to arrest them if he wants his family to be safe. She said drug users have left needles near her car.

"I don't want to have my children raised among dope addicts and criminals and people who don't agree with my husband's job," Douglas said. "I don't want to be a prisoner in my own life. I want to be free."

Several council members -- who made clear even before the public portion of the hearing began that they would not vote to change the law -- said they thought it was insulting for the police officers to criticize the schools and the neighborhoods of the "people who pay your checks."

Council member Harry Thomas Sr. (D-Ward 5) said the criticism "seems . . . racist to me. That's what the bottom line is." Both Wilson and Douglas are black. "If I was the chief of police and I had these employes on my payroll, you wouldn't be there tomorrow," Thomas added.

Council member John Ray (D-At Large) proposed that the issue be put to the voters in an advisory referendum in May, but he urged those that wanted to change the law not to "trash the city."

The debate took place on the first of two days of hearings on whether to drop the residency requirement, which has stirred controversy in the District for many years. The law, which took effect in 1980, was meant to keep city jobs and tax revenue within the city's borders. Over the years, one of the major controversies that has emerged is whether city workers can afford to live in the District.

"These families {covered by the law} may never have the opportunity to save, to buy a home . . . and are forced to settle for less than satisfactory living conditions," said Patty Muzatti, a police officer's wife and chairwoman of Families of Police Against Residency.

Although the Fraternal Order of Police strongly opposes the residency requirement, Ronald Hampton, president of the D.C. Afro-American Police Officers Association, said his group supported the requirement.

Hampton said he has lived in the city for many years "without any danger to my life." He said rescinding the law would "damage the respect of the community for the police department as our police department rather than as an occupying force."

Robert Pohlman, acting director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, said safe, moderate-income housing was available in many parts of the District despite assertions by the police officers that they had trouble finding decent housing here. "People may prefer one neighborhood over another," Pohlman said, "but the housing is there even if it is not in the neighborhood they want."

Pohlman said city government subsidies are available to help city employes get housing.

Under the law, all D.C. government employes hired after Jan. 1, 1980, must become residents within six months. But those working before that date may live elsewhere.

About 60 percent of the city's 42,750 employes live in the District compared with about 55 percent who did so before the requirement took effect. But eventually officials expect about 95 percent of the employes to live in the city because exemptions are allowed only for a few hard-to-fill jobs.

The proportion of workers who are black also has risen substantially since the requirement took effect.

Yesterday, Theodore Thornton, director of the D.C. Personnel Office, said that Mayor Marion Barry strongly supports the law. Barry first introduced the legislation when he was a member of the council 10 years ago. Thornton said many other large cities also have residency requirements for their employes, and many are more rigid than the District's.

"Our citizens are the real employers of District government workers," Thornton declared, "and our citizens deserve employes who have, or want to have, a stake in the quality of life in our neighborhoods by living among us and by sharing our concerns."

He said the requirement also provided more jobs for District residents and more tax revenue for the D.C. government. He said the revenue was particularly important because the District, unlike other cities, cannot tax income earned within its borders by commuters.

Later, D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke remarked to a police officer who urged that the law be dropped: "We are doing this for the taxes. I hope you appreciate that these taxes pay your salaries."

Last winter, council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large) introduced a measure replacing the residency requirement with a hiring preference for applicants who live in the city. Yesterday, only one other council member, James Nathanson, supported that bill.