A Fairfax County police officer is being investigated for allegedly advising the manager of a towing company how to bid for a county contract, an official said this week.

Richard A. King, deputy county executive for public safety, said the police department's internal affairs division is investigating "an allegation that a member of the police department had in some way improperly involved himself in the bidding process."

According to county documents, 17 firms submitted bids to provide towing services to the police department. The department calls private towing companies to haul vehicles from accident and arrest scenes, or when vehicles break down or are abandoned.

Five companies were awarded contracts to provide the towing services, and 11 of the companies that did not win the contracts have protested the award.

Daniel Strouth, towing manager for the Fairfax City Shell station, one of the companies that did not win a contract, said in an interview Tuesday that Fairfax police Officer Michael R. Kennedy called him the day before bids were to be opened and advised that his bid should list as many free towing services as possible. Strouth said he has known Kennedy for about five years.

Kennedy, the police towing coordinator and a 23-year veteran of the force, could not be reached for comment.

The county asked towing companies to list what they would charge for seven services, such as daytime towing, towing from an accident scene, daily storage charges, and nighttime release of a vehicle to its owner. Many of the companies that won contracts bid "no charge" for some of the services.

Larry N. Wellman, director of the county Purchasing and Supply Management Agency, said that allegations about Kennedy, and complaints about the similarity of some of the bids, have been turned over to the County Attorney's Office for review. County Attorney David T. Stitt declined to comment.