Herman Russell Washington had worked overtime at a warehouse on July 16, 1983, slicing boxes open with a buck knife he carried in a sheath at the waist of his gym shorts. As he parked his car near his family's Southeast Washington house, two plainclothes police officers pulled up.

According to a report by a D.C. review panel, the officers jumped from their unmarked car with their guns drawn and ordered Washington out of his car. "Don't move or I'll blow your brains out," Officer Carl A. Occhipinti yelled, according to the board's findings.

What followed, according to testimony and documents compiled by the board, was a 36-hour ordeal that started with a charge that Washington ran a red light and ended with his spending two nights in jail. The incident was described in a 13-page report by the District's Civilian Complaint Review Board, the panel that hears allegations of police brutality. The board's report concluded:

"Officer Occhipinti's actions in cocking his gun while it was held to {Washington's} head, holding the knife to {Washington's} stomach, threatening him with both gun and knife, slamming his gun into his head . . . forcing him to the ground and pulling his shoulder to the point of extreme pain, and grabbing him by his Adam's apple and slamming him against the wall at the precinct, in response to what was purportedly a traffic violation, against a subject who did not struggle, betray not only excessive use of force but shocking and egregious conduct."

Last month, more than four years after the incident, Occhipinti was recommended for termination from the police force by the review board. A D.C. police trial board is reviewing the findings and the recommendation.

In an interview, Occhipinti, who is now a sergeant, said he had not mistreated Washington. "I did put a gun on him. But cock it? No, I'd never do that to anyone under any circumstances unless I was going to kill him," said Occhipinti, 40. "None of the things they said happened happened -- none of them."

Washington's allegations against Occhipinti and his then-partner, Officer John P. Saylor, are among an estimated 1,450 complaints filed against D.C. police officers during the past 5 1/2 years with the seven-member civilian review board, which serves as a court of inquiry for officers accused of brutality, harassment or use of bad language.

Washington's complaint is one of eight lodged against Occhipinti between 1982 and 1986, when he went on sick leave after injuring his knee while making an arrest. The complaints contain 24 allegations, including 12 accusing Occhipinti of using excessive force.

The proceedings against Occhipinti illustrate what are widely described as severe shortcomings in the review system. This month, the review board, citing protracted delays and other problems, recommended an overhaul of the system.

The board's proposals, which must be considered by Mayor Marion Barry and the D.C. Council, include major staff increases and sweeping changes in procedures to speed investigations. The board has a backlog of 934 complaints, almost two-thirds of the total filed since the panel's creation in June 1982.

Critics, including police and union officials, say that the review process often takes years. Multiple cases against one officer are handled separately, officials say, and supervisors are not alerted to monitor the officer's behavior. Innocent officers, wrongly accused, are subject to uncertainty, stress and tarnished reputations, officials say.

"Obviously, nothing should take this long," said Capt. William White III, a police spokesman.

Occhipinti is among more than 300 D.C. officers facing multiple complaints. In a lengthy telephone interview, Occhipinti, a 17-year member of the force, denied that he had used excessive force in any of the cases decided by or pending before the review board. He described himself as a productive officer and said he was an easy target for revenge by people against whom he has taken action because his name can be found on numerous arrest records.

"Because of what I do, I come into contact with an awful lot of people and arrest a lot of people. That increases my chances" of drawing complaints, Occhipinti said. "But no, I don't rough people up. If I did, I would not be good at what I do . . . maybe on TV but not in real life."

Occhipinti contended that investigators employed by the board are incompetent, untrained and "intimidated by the fact that they are not policemen." He complained that board members are ignorant of police procedures and the dangers officers face. "They don't have any idea what goes on out in the street. They just don't know," Occhipinti said.

In addition, Occhipinti said that he had been notified of only one of the eight complaints against him -- a claim that the board's staff vehemently disputed. Occhipinti, who was not present at the hearing on Washington's allegations, said he was never notified of Washington's complaint. "It's as if they had a trial and didn't invite the defendant," he said.

Lucy R. Edwards, who was executive director of the board from its inception until she resigned last month, said that Occhipinti was notified. "I personally spoke with him in three or four of the cases," she said.

"Officer Occhipinti's is not an easy case," Edwards added. "He is fairly shrewd. What people say in his defense is that he's an aggressive officer, he makes a lot of arrests, he's really out there . . . . The other side of that is that, yeah, in their efforts to carry out their jobs they do sometimes run roughshod over people's rights like what we see on TV."

The board's notification procedures include sending a certified letter to any officer against whom a complaint is filed, officials said. If an officer does not respond, officials said, another letter is mailed and a phone call is made. Officers also are notified when a hearing is scheduled, they said.

The board's members include five civilians, one police official and a police officer representing the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union. The board is empowered only to make recommendations and cannot impose disciplinary action. Its recommendations go to Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. In cases involving serious allegations, Turner may seek a review by a police trial board. If Turner disagrees with the civilian review board's recommendations, Barry must make the final decision.

The board has found Occhipinti culpable in four other cases. These cases include six incidents involving use of excessive force, four of harassment and one of bad language. The board has recommended disciplinary actions ranging from 30 days' suspension without pay to demotion from sergeant to officer.On Oct. 16, 1985, the board sustained allegations of excessive force and abusive language and recommended that Occhipinti be suspended without pay. It found that Occhipinti had cursed and hit a man in a house where an arrest warrant was being served in November 1982. The man was treated for glass fragments in his eye and bruises on his legs. On Jan. 10, 1986, Turner, saying that the board's action was "flawed" by a 2 1/2-year delay, disagreed that force had been used and recommended that Occhipinti be suspended for three days without pay. Mayor Barry, the final arbiter in cases where the board and the chief disagree, sided with the board, suspending Occhipinti for 30 days. On Oct. 1, 1986, the board sustained allegations of excessive force and harassment, stemming from a November 1984 incident in which Occhipinti's car collided with a vehicle driven by a salesman he was following. The board found that Occhipinti knocked the salesman unconscious with his gun and left him lying in a puddle of blood. It recommended that Occhipinti be demoted from sergeant to officer and suspended for 30 days without pay. The recommendation and findings are pending before a police trial board. Last June 3, the board sustained an allegation of harassment and recommended that Occhipinti be formally reprimanded. The board found that in an October 1982 incident, Occhipinti did not identify himself as an officer, repeatedly accused two people of illegal drug activity and threatened them. Turner concurred on July 14. On June 24, the board sustained four complaints of excessive force and two of harassment. The complaints stemmed from two November 1983 incidents. The board found that Occhipinti kicked and hit several men loitering in a restaurant and that he hit another man in the head with a flashlight. The board's findings and its recommendation that Occhipinti be suspended without pay for 25 days are pending.

"I'm not perfect; I don't claim to be. But the complaints that have been filed against me are specious -- all of them," Occhipinti said.