D.C. police officer Deborah Pendergrass said her problems with the law began when she married fellow officer William Lieto and moved in September 1985 into the town house he owned in Fairfax County.

When she told her superiors about the move, she said "nothing happened." But this past summer she received an affidavit sent to all of the estimated 10,000 D.C. government employes covered by the city's residency law, requiring her to swear that she currently lives in the District.

William Lieto was allowed to live in Fairfax County because he became a District police officer before Jan. 1, 1980, when the law went into effect, requiring new D.C. government employes to become city residents.

But Deborah Pendergrass was not supposed to move out of the District because she had joined the force in 1984.

She said she did not want to lie and did not file the form by the deadline last month. On Wednesday, she was ordered to sign it or be fired from her job.

"If I choose to live with my husband, how can I be charged with violating the law?" Pendergrass testified at a D.C. Council hearing on the residency requirement. "But that's what they're doing to me."

Her predicament -- living with her husband or obeying the residency law -- was just one example of problems created by the residency law that have been outlined by city employes, union officials and District residents during two days of council hearings on the controversial measure. More than 100 witnesses appeared and more than 17 hours of testimony was taken before the hearings ended at 6 p.m. yesterday.

Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), who conducted the hearings, said the law should be reexamined. But she and a majority of council members seemed reluctant to change it.

"I know some people are having problems," said council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), "but I still believe very strongly that if you work for the city you should live in the city, and you should know that before you get involved."

Officer Edward R. Wilson said that when he married his police officer wife she moved to his house in Prince George's County and "decided to be quiet about it." He said his wife has given a D.C. address on her affidavit, "but it's difficult living a lie."

Wilson added, "There's no room in the residency requirement for love. There's no room for that at all . . . . It's very hard on {District government employes} who live in the city. You don't just have to ask them, 'Do you have AIDS?' you have to ask, 'Do you live in Maryland?' You might fall in love, and then you'd have to move or lose your job."

D.C. personnel director Theodore Thornton, representing Mayor Marion Barry, said the law was needed to increase D.C. tax revenue, reduce unemployment among D.C. residents, and improve the quality of municipal services by insuring that employes have a "first-hand stake" in what they do.

He said the law had caused few difficulties in filling city jobs.

But a parade of other witnesses presented a lengthy list of problems created by the law:D.C. General Hospital is so short of nurses that its emergency room was closed early Friday to all except traumatic-injury patients. Fifty of the hospital's 461 beds have stayed empty for the past two weeks because there is not enough staff to serve them. Its pharmacy has stopped filling outpatient Medicaid prescriptions. District public schools have been unable to hire all the special education teachers they need and have had great difficulty getting teachers for English as a second language classes for the growing number of immigrants.

Even though the District hired about 425 new teachers this fall -- the largest number in two decades -- 84 percent of nonresidents offered teaching jobs by the city schools turned them down. As a result, many of the jobs were offered to residents who were not the school system's first choice. There are 75 vacancies in the corps of emergency medical technicians who operate the city's ambulance service, which has been plagued by complaints of poor performance and slow response time. The public libraries have had severe difficulties hiring qualified librarians.

But the problems that captured most of the council's attention were the personal ones of police officers and firefighters ensnared in the law. Personnel officials said an annual affidavit of continued city residency was added this year because of widespread complaints that many of those covered were not complying with the law, a situation that many employes privately confirmed outside the crowded hearing room.

Many of those who do comply with the law said they suffer because of it.

Although several council members said it was good for city neighborhoods to have police officers living in them, Officer Lynell Rouse, who was born in the District and lives in Northeast, said she has had ugly confrontations with people whom she has arrested. She said her son was attacked by classmates in public school "because his mother was the police."

"The District may be fine for those with different occupations or more money," Rouse declared, "but the police and their families need to feel . . . secure, not just on the job, but also off."

Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, whose unions represent about 25,000 of the District's 42,000 employes, urged that the residency requirement be replaced by a residency preference in hiring new employes, a measure introduced by council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large).

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has urged the same change, and inserted an amendment in the Senate D.C. Appropriation Act, strongly encouraging the District to adopt it.

Council member John Ray (D-At Large) has proposed that the council place the issue before the voters in a nonbinding referendum in May.

Williams said he thought the change should be made by the council itself, saying the requirement is "inequitable" because of exemptions granted to highly paid employes in hard-to-fill professional jobs and the District's use of consultants, who do not have to be residents.

One of the most important of these, Williams said, is Donald H. Weinberg, who resigned last year as the city's director of labor relations after investigators determined that he lived in Bethesda.

Since then, Weinberg has had two six-month contracts as a consultant at $49,000 each. He is still functioning as the city's chief negotiator in its major contract talks.

"That just flaunts the law," Williams said, "when the employes he's dealing with have to live in the District."