In another step toward fighting the District's drug and homicide epidemic, Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. announced yesterday that 101 police officers working in administrative and support positions will be reassigned to beef up street patrols around the city.

Turner said the department will free up the officers by replacing them with lower-paid civilian employees. "By pulling 100 staff positions and filling them with civilians, we are essentially adding 100 officers to the force," he said.

Police union officials criticized the move, saying that many staff positions require trained officers and that using civilians in those positions will create dangerous situations.

Yesterday's announcement was the second major departmental reassignment this month in the face of growing public demand for more police officers. Earlier in the month, Mayor Marion Barry announced that 40 to 50 officers from the Special Operations Division had been reassigned to the police 7th District, which covers most of Southeast Washington.

Police officials declined to specify which jobs will be assumed by civilians, but a source said that the department's Communications Division, which dispatches police to crime scenes, will be entirely taken over by civilians, freeing up 60 officers now working there.

The source said the reassignments will affect almost every division in the department.

Gary Hankins, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police labor committee, said reassignments also have begun in the police academy and the Special Operations Division.

Hankins criticized Turner's action, calling it a "political quick fix," adding, "we've already cut way past the fat." Hankins said officers have been reassigned several times during the last 10 years, and that the transfers have resulted in divisions losing officers essential for them to function effectively.

Hankins said police experience is vital to performing many support positions. He said that three weeks ago, a sergeant working the streets ordered a civilian dispatcher off the air during a high-speed car chase because she was hindering the pursuit.

"Obviously I disagree," Turner said last night. "Those people are coming out of positions that can be done by civilians."

The communications division, for example, is run by civilians in most other major metropolitan police departments across the country, Turner said. "Right now, we've got civilians sitting next to officers {in the communications division} and the officers are making twice as much."

Turner estimated that hiring 101 civilians would cost the department $1.3 million annually in salary, not including benefits.

Turner said this process of placing civilians in adminstrative positions previously held by officers has been a continuing process since he took over the department in 1981. "We'll just be doing it at a faster pace now," he said.

The Fraternal Order of Police wants the department, which has an authorized strength of 3,880 officers, to hire an additional 500 officers to combat the current drug-related crisis.

Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) has also called for more officers.

Barry said this month that he planned to eventually add 100 officers to the 332 officers assigned to the 7th District, which has been particulary hard hit by drug-related violence in the last year.

Police say there have been 52 slayings in the District this year, most of them drug-related. That is nearly twice as many slayings as occurred in the same period last year.

In announcing yesterday's reassignment, Turner also said the department will begin reviewing the status of 167 officers currently on extended limited duty because of injuries.

A special task force will determine how best to return these officers to full duty or free those positions for other officers.

Barry, who insists the city has enough officers, has advocated returning those officers to duty or opening up their positions to put even more officers on the street.