The decision to dismiss several hundred pending drug cases because of police corruption is certainly frustrating and embarrassing for District officials, but the net effect on residents and the community is negligible at best. This is because, like the American criminal justice system and crime generally, there is little or no relationship between the successful prosecution of these drug cases and the impact of crime on our citizens.

The system fails because it is built exclusively on the assumption that deterrence controls criminal behavior. While it is true that some individuals are deterred, the system has failed to reduce the number of persons committing crimes. Hundreds of thousands of persons are not deterred. From recent media reports, it appears that even some police officers were not deterred.

The alleged corruption in the 4th District is just the exception that proves the rule -- the rule that police and prosecutors, judges, juries and prison administrators generally do their individual jobs very well. It is our overall system that fails to achieve a reduction in crime to reasonable levels.

There are effective ways of dealing with crime in society, but our system is not one of them. ROBERT W. SCOTT Springfield

There are no excuses for corruption -- none. I am happy to report that sentiment is shared by every metropolitan police officer I have spoken with about the FBI's investigation into allegations of corruption in the D.C. Police Department's 4th District vice unit.

We all feel the pain and humiliation now being felt by the 16 men and women of that unit. Any police officer who is serious about the oath he took cannot help sharing the embarrassment of being doubted by the community we serve. The depth of our shame is a reflection of the pride most of us take in being officers.

Some in the community mistake our pride in our profession for arrogance born of a mistaken belief that we are "better" than everyone else. They take pleasure in public disclosures about crooked cops, feeling perhaps this will put us in our place. From them, we ask for more understanding and a little more support.

What has been expressed among the rank and file time and time again is the desire that our fellow officers be given the same presumption of innocence that is afforded to all citizens under the law. Perhaps we are guilty of trading on our service to the community in asking for a little extra consideration for the accused police officers.

Another notable feeling is being generally voiced by my fellow officers: if anyone among our ranks is guilty of corrupting his badge, then he deserves to feel the fullest possible weight of the law, for he has done more than commit a criminal offense -- he has betrayed us all.

Finally, a lot has been written and broadcast about the FBI's investigation into allegations of corruption in the police department. I wish everyone would take a moment to bear in mind that this investigation is reported to have been started because one or more courageous D.C. police officers contacted the bureau with their suspicions. No "sting" operation was initiated outside of our ranks.

Only time and the courts will prove whether those officers who contacted the FBI were correct in their suspicions. Correct or not, if they were motivated by a desire for justice and a clean department, they made the right decision. GARY HANKINS Chairman, Labor Committee Fraternal Order of Police Washington