Howard County's embattled police chief resigned yesterday at the request of County Executive Charles I. Ecker (R), saying he wasn't told why he was dismissed and that he didn't ask.

"It's been the trend in Howard County that when a new executive comes along he brings in a new police chief," Chief Frederick W. Chaney said. "I'm sure there's a lot of underlying reasons. He didn't mention anything, and I didn't want to pry."

Chaney's short tenure at the department -- he took over in 1987 after 25 years with the Montgomery County police force -- had grown increasingly rocky in recent months.

His department received considerable bad publicity when two county youths claimed that they had been roughed up by police during an arrest at a party at a motel. The county police department also was cited in October by the Maryland NAACP as one of the most brutal in the state.

Chaney repeatedly denied that his department had problems. It filed departmental charges against three officers involved in the motel incident.

His spokesman said the NAACP's report was heavy on rhetoric and light on evidence.

Nevertheless, the concerns led Ecker to propose during his campaign that a citizens advisory committee oversee police operations.

Ecker could not be reached for comment yesterday. An aide, Beverly Wilhide, said Ecker hasn't specified a reason for seeking Chaney's resignation.

Chaney is the second department head and the third administrator dismissed since Ecker took office Dec. 3.

The county executive forced out Planning Director Uri P. Avin and eliminated the job of deputy chief administrative officer, which had been held by Robert E. Vogel.

Ecker has not named a successor to Chaney, who said he will remain in his post until March 1 "unless I find something else."

"I'm leaving the department knowing I tried to do my best, and that's all you can hope to do," Chaney said.

The news release announcing Chaney's departure noted that the chief initiated several programs in the fast-growing suburban county. He created a foot-patrol program, started units to handle child-abuse and street-drug cases, initiated random drug testing of officers and increased the size of the force by 52 officers and 23 civilians.

Chaney, 52, of Columbia, said he hopes to continue to live in the county but wants to find a new job soon.

"I'm not going to retire," he said.