Assistant D.C. Police Chief Carl V. Profater, who was criticized last month for his role in the controversial drug testing program, will be moved from head of a division involved in the day-to-day operation of the police force to a less visible branch of the department, D.C. police sources said.

Sources said that the order to transfer Profater, the department's third-ranking official, from the administrative services division to the technical services branch, came from Mayor Marion Barry to Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr.

John C. White, spokesman for Barry, said that Barry had not ordered the transfer. "It is my understanding that Profater is one of several officers who have been reassigned," White said. "The decision was made by the police chief."

Sgt. Joseph Gentile, a police spokesman, said that several promotions were made Friday, including a number of high-ranking officials, "and some changes and reassignments were made as a result."

But Gentile said that "any announcement about movements or transfers of ranking officials would be made by Chief Turner." Turner, Profater and Assistant Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Assistant Chief Melvin High, who headed technical services, will take Profater's place, sources said. The transfer of Profater to the technical services division is not a demotion because he still remains an assistant chief.

On Jan. 15, Turner announced that an internal investigation had rejected allegations by drug screening employees that test results had been manipulated to allow a lieutenant to win promotion after he had failed his first urine test.

But at the same time, a summary of the probe said the panel found that two top officials -- Profater and Deputy Chief Jimmy L. Wilson -- gave false information to the panel.

Turner said he would reprimand Profater and Wilson for "errant judgment" and "action {that} contributed to the perception that there are improprieties and favoritism in the department's drug screening programs." In addition, Turner said he would reprimand Capt. Robert J. Noyes, a former drug screening official, for violating department rules governing the anonymity of the tests.

Turner's handling of the investigation was criticized by police union officials, who called on Barry to mount an independent investigation of the drug testing program. Union officials said tougher disciplinary action was warranted in the case.

Police sources said that Profater is being moved to the periphery of the police department. As head of the administrative services division, Profater oversaw the police and fire drug-screening clinics and all disciplinary action. The technical services branch deals with data processing and communications.