Any national accreditation of the Howard County Police Department should be withheld until the issue of alleged police harassment of young people is more thoroughly explored, three county residents told a police standards-setting organization this week.

The residents' testimony Monday night before the Fairfax-based Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies was the only sour note in an evening of praise for the department by two dozen Howard officials and community representatives.

Howard is seeking to become the third Maryland jurisdiction, after Baltimore County and the city of Salisbury, to win accreditation by establishing policies and installing state-of-the-art equipment.

Most witnesses spoke of the county police as courteous and well-trained, an organization that pays special attention to educating young people not to commit crimes. But the dissenters said police have come under suspicion since Jonathan Bowie, 19, was found fatally hanged in a schoolyard last month. Bowie and his twin brother had filed a bruality complaint against two officers who arrested them at a party in January.

The Columbia resident's death was ruled a suicide but is being investigated by the Maryland State Police. Howard police officials have denied that officers harassed Bowie or other young people.

However, David Parrish, a Columbia resident and former baseball coach of the twins, said there is "presently a deep concern in the community as to whether the {Howard} police have mishandled the investigation . . . . " He contended that evidence had not been gathered in "a systematic way."

John Clark, a lawyer, said he has heard 10 complaints over the past six years from youths who said they had been roughed up by police. He urged the commission to talk to Police Chief Frederick W. Chaney about his force's relationship with young people.

Howard County State's Attorney William Hymes was among the officials who said the police have become increasingly professional.

"I've seen the department grow from a department that was a place for displaced cousins and nephews of political hacks to get a job," said Hymes, who has worked in the county since the 1950s.