I am shocked that the Commission on Budget and Financial Priorities, a group composed of supposedly rational and well-educated human beings, could recommend such a drastic reduction in the number of D.C. Metropolitan Police officers. In these unstable economic times, I could understand such a reduction in almost any other city. Washington, however, is unique in its need for police officers for two reasons.

First, although the commission seems to take great delight in pointing out that the District has more police officers per capita than any other urban police department in the United States, it seems oblivious to the fact that the District also has more murders per year than any other American city. Victimization of the elderly is on the increase. Neighborhoods once thought safe are now marred by the same chalk outlines all too common in more crime-ridden areas of the city. Aside from murder, rape is occurring with increasing frequency. And the answer to this is to reduce the size of the police force? I think not.

Second, there is the District's anti-handgun law. Since it was passed,the only persons legally allowed to possess handguns are law enforcement officers.

The D.C. government sent a message to the District's citizens with that law. The message says in effect that citizens are not allowed to protect themselves from violent crime -- that is a job for the police. What kind of message would the D.C. government send if it were to adopt the commission's proposal? Essentially this: citizens are still not allowed to protect themselves from violent crime, and by the way, don't count on the police force either, because it will be undermanned.

If this commission is out to reduce the costs of running the city, reducing the police force would accomplish that. But after a while, there would be be a lot fewer law-abiding citizens for the government to serve. They would have all become statistics.


The Post's editorial {Nov. 18} welcoming the "Rivlin Commission Report" calls attention to the fact that ''the District confronts an immediate fiscal crisis of serious proportions,'' which the report attributes to several causes including a drug epidemic, the loss of residents, jobs and sales to the suburbs and abnormally high local government staffing levels. As a member of the D.C. Republican Committee, I believe both The Post and the Rivlin Commission fail to ask whether these conditions just came on us like bad weather or were the result of policies our local government has followed during the past 15 years of home rule.

How did it happen that we have 48,000 people on the payroll, of which Alice Rivlin and her colleagues recommend 6,000 should be fired? Was it simply because the mayor for the past 10 years turned out to be an alcoholic and drug addict, many of whose closest associates were crooks? Or did the policies of tax and spend consistently followed by the mayor and supported by the D.C. Council have something to do with it?

During all these years, one party has had monopoly control of the D.C. government, but apparently no one is suggesting that the Democratic Party bears any responsibility for the city's sorry state.

Running against Marion Barry's former police chief, Sharon Pratt Dixon was able to run as the candidate of change, and the voters went for it. But aside from getting rid of a few thousand Barry friends on the D.C. payroll, what changes in policy does she offer?

What Washington needs desperately is a valid two-party system, and what many of us, including editors of The Post, should do is to see that the city gets it.