There are, says a panel of D.C. civic leaders, 46 police officers and civilians who work in community relations for the District of Columbia, helping residents and businesses prevent crime and talking to crime victims. Of those employees, 32 are detectives.

There are three police officers in each of the seven police districts -- 21 people all told -- who spend their days manually processing payroll data, a job that the commission headed by Alice M. Rivlin says could be done by one or two people working downtown with a computer.

Last fiscal year, the District paid its officers $22.7 million in overtime. Last fiscal year, Detroit -- a city more than twice the District's size -- paid its officers $5.2 million in overtime. Denver didn't even pay $1 million.

These are, according to the Rivlin Commission, snapshots of a badly organized police force.

It is one slow to modernize equipment, the commission says; one burdened by too many people working at desks; one with too many officers doing jobs civilians ought to do; and one that doesn't have a good idea of how well its various parts are working because it doesn't study them.

"Major overhaul has to occur," said James Fyfe, an American University professor and former New York police officer who helped lead the part of the commission's inquiry devoted to the police.

D.C. police officials declined to comment on the commission's findings.

In what commission members conceded yesterday was their most stunning conclusion, the panel found that the District, whose homicide rate leads the nation and many of whose citizens have taken safety into their own hands through drug patrols, simply has too many police officers.

While Philadelphia has 3.7 officers for every 1,000 residents and Baltimore has 3.9 and Detroit 3.3, the District has 6.3 officers. That doesn't count those who work for the U.S. Park Police, the Capitol Police or any of the other police forces at work in the federal capital.

One of every five D.C. police officers, however, does not work in the field, according to commission figures.

That was the highest ratio of any of 13 large cities examined. The commission found, for example, that 556 D.C. officers who are listed as working in one of the seven police districts were actually assigned to some special task, often in headquarters downtown.

The District does have one of the lowest overall crime rates of those cities cited, despite its homicide rate.

But the commission contended there is no evidence of a link between the level of crime and the number of officers, and it recommended cutting 1,605 of the 6,024 uniformed and civilian positions, or 27 percent.

There would be no loss of manpower on the street, Fyfe said, because about 1,000 of the targeted positions are vacant and because about 500 are administrative.

Those administrative jobs would not be missed, he said, if the District engages in a massive restructuring of how the police department does business -- if, for example, it is computerized.

If there were computers, "you would be able to do away with staff personnel and deploy the people you do have more intelligently," said Fyfe, who cited as an example the 21 officers who do payroll work.

Because of the absence of technology, he added, the police department has not done a systematic analysis of how it ought to allocate officers around the city. "I don't know of any other big city that operates this way," Fyfe said. "It took us several months to get information on personnel levels, where the officers are and on salaries."

At least 78 positions currently held by uniformed personnel should be given to civilians, the report said, a step that would eventually save money because civilians are cheaper. Their pension plans are not nearly as costly as those of police officers', according to commission member Patrick Murphy, a former D.C. police chief.

Other positions are occupied by overqualified staff, Fyfe said. Having 32 detectives doing community relations work, he said, "is kind of strange . . . at a time when you're worried about not solving a homicide." The report recommends turning those jobs over to uniformed officers.

In the Youth Division, which handles school visits, child abuse and other problems, there are 73 employees. But the consultant employed by the commission, the Police Executive Research Forum, found that the division could do without one of its deputy chiefs, a captain, four lieutenants and 10 sergeants, for a total of 16 employees, Fyfe said.

While the commission found that the police department pays a comparatively large amount of overtime, it cannot avoid doing so in some cases because the District is one of the few cities that does not have a night court.

That means that an officer who makes an arrest at night often must return off-duty the next morning to take care of the paper work. Given that 60 percent of all arrests occur between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., Fyfe said, officers accumulate huge amounts of overtime. The commission found that some officers earned more than $100,000 a year as a result.

But the police department also incurs overtime because it has so many uniformed officers who are not working in the field, Fyfe said. Whenever there is a major demonstration or other unusual event, extra hands must be called in, he said.