A special prosecutor is investigating allegations that a veteran officer in the Prince William County Police Department's internal affairs division embezzled money from a nonprofit association of detectives and prosecutors.

First Sgt. Ronald McClelland, 44, was removed as treasurer of the Woodbridge-based Virginia Homicide Investigators Association after the allegations surfaced last spring. McClelland, who has not been charged with a crime, yesterday declined to comment on the investigation, which is being conducted by Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney William Davenport and his assistant, Kenneth Nickels.

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case because he and his assistants have worked closely with McClelland on many criminal investigations.

"I was extremely surprised that such allegations could be made against a person like Ron McClelland," said Ebert, who declined to give details. "He was one of the most outstanding investigators."

Local criminal investigations involving government officials are routinely sent to prosecutors in other jurisdictions to eliminate conflict of interest. Nickels said he has been investigating McClelland since early this month and expects to decide within a couple of weeks whether to present the case to a grand jury.

The 480-member association conducts training seminars for police officers and holds an annual conference for law enforcement authorities from across the country.

"We discovered some discrepancies in the finances back in April and the board of directors took some decisive action and removed the treasurer," said 1st Sgt. Richard Cantarella, the association president and a Prince William police detective. "He had made some unauthorized purchases" for personal use.

"Anything that was taken was paid back," Cantarella said. "We're solvent. . . . We're not missing any money. We're in good shape."

Maj. John Collier, an association member and former Prince William police officer who is chief deputy of the county Sheriff's Department, said his first reaction to the allegations "was that I didn't believe it. I would give him the benefit of any doubt that could be given."

Collier said it would not have been possible to take much money because the association "does not carry a lot of money in their balance."

McClelland joined the police department in November 1978, working his way up from dispatcher to detective in the violent crimes squad and finally to first sergeant in the internal affairs division, which investigates complaints against fellow officers, police Chief Charlie T. Deane said.

"He's had an outstanding work record here," Deane said. "He has an excellent memory, he was very detail-oriented. His interrogation skills were outstanding. He was known for his detailed documentation, which was superior."

McClelland, who has been on sick leave since May and who is scheduled to retire Sunday, recently was a member of the task force that investigated the area's sniper shootings, Collier said.