Montgomery County's police chief yesterday named the department's highest-ranking black officer to review the agency's recruitment efforts and accepted the resignation of his controversial director of minority recruitment.

Chief Donald E. Brooks appointed Capt. Richard K. Williams, 49, district commander of the Bethesda police station, to help bolster the department's recruitment of minorities and women. Williams, a 22-year veteran, is scheduled to start the temporary, two-month assignment on July 1. There are no plans now for another permanent chief of minority recruitment.

Williams, who has been commander of the Bethesda police station since August 1988, praised the department's recruiting program. "I'm not going in looking for demons and witches," he said. "I want to give a fresh look at things based on my years of experience."

However, Williams said Montgomery County has been losing the recruiting battle among local police agencies for qualified officer candidates in the past three years. "People are now applying to five or six different police departments," he said. "They're looking for the best incentives and options. We have lost our competitiveness."

Williams said he plans to develop incentive programs to attract and keep rookie police officers in the suburban county. Police departments in nearby jurisdictions, such as Prince George's County, are offering sizable bonuses and take-home cars to police school graduates, Williams said. "Montgomery County can't compete with that," he said.

Williams succeeds Lt. Clifford Melton, who submitted his resignation Friday under a cloud stemming from a 1983 sexual harassment complaint and civil suit filed by two female officers.

Melton, who called the criticisms "unfair," asked Brooks to transfer him out of the recruitment job and back to the Silver Spring police district. Yesterday, Brooks approved Melton's request, although he defended Melton as a "success story" and a "good choice for a difficult job."

Brooks selected Melton to oversee minority recruitment after the county NAACP said the department had a "dismal record" in recruiting blacks. NAACP leaders were angered by a recent report showing that one of 100 black applicants was accepted for an upcoming officer candidate class.

In the 1983 sexual harassment lawsuit, Melton, then a sergeant, was accused of urinating in front of one female officer, forcing the other female officer to watch an X-rated movie in front of an all-male squad and making sexual advances toward both complainants.

In 1985, the county paid $5,000 to each of the female officers for attorneys' fees and court costs. A police trial board found Melton not guilty of harassment but concluded that his conduct had been "inappropriate for his rank."