Some members of the D.C. Council questioned the wisdom and political feasibility yesterday of reducing the city police force by 1,605 positions, as recommended recently by a commission of civic leaders that studied ways to solve the city's financial crisis.

Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) told the panel's chairwoman, Alice M. Rivlin, that it is "not politically possible to reach a reduction in the police force."

Council member John Ray (D-At Large) said he could not understand the commission's assertion that the overall size of the police force could be reduced without reducing the number of officers on patrol. "I just can't figure out how it is going to be done," he said.

The comments came during a three-hour round table, in which Rivlin and other members of the commission briefed council members on their wide-ranging recommendations for streamlining city government and reducing the city's deficit. The shortfall, estimated at $200 million this fiscal year, is projected to rise to $700 million in five years if no action is taken.

The budget commission, appointed a year ago by Mayor Marion Barry, has proposed a number of controversial steps, including reducing the size of the city's 48,000-member work force by 6,000 jobs.

But the recommendation that has generated the sharpest response has been the one calling for a reduction in the police force from its current authorized level of 6,024 positions.

Many of those positions are unfilled, and the commission said the reductions could be accomplished through attrition.

The commission argued that the city has many more police officers per capita than any other large city, and that the department's manpower is badly deployed, with many officers filling desk jobs that civilians could fill at less cost. The panel also said there are no statistics that demonstrate a correlation between the size of the force and the crime rate.

This assertion drew a sharp response yesterday from council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the police force.

Rolark, whose Southeast Washington ward has been one of the hardest hit by drug-related violence, said that the city's experience has been that when police presence is increased in high-crime neighborhoods, "You do have a reduction in some of that crime."

Despite the criticism, the tone of the council members' remarks about the police recommendations was mostly polite, and several members expressed sympathy with the commission's view that police manpower has been badly deployed. James J. Fyfe, a commission member and American University professor, said that the department has deployed 200 uniformed officers to its technical services unit, positions he said could be filled by civilians. "Rather than cutting the officers, we have to reshuffle the deck," he said.

Jarvis said the panel's recommendations are likely to prompt the council to take a closer look at the department's use of manpower.

Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) noted that she frequently visits police stations and has found uniformed police officers filling out time sheets, a task she said civilians could perform.

Another subject that drew tart comments from some of the council members was the commission's recommendation that the D.C. School of Law be abolished, a move that it estimated could save $3.4 million next year.

Rivlin admitted under questioning from Chairman David A. Clarke (D) that those savings do not include the cost of paying for legal scholarships for students to attend local law schools as an alternative.

Council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large), chairman of the Education Committee and a longtime supporter of the D.C. Law School, was highly critical of the commission's recommendations. "There was a lack of objectivity in dealing with the law school, and a lot of information was inaccurate," she said. "It makes me question {the whole} report."