High-ranking D.C. police officials have authorized thousands of dollars in overtime pay to have their offices and working areas repainted, paneled with wood, and scrubbed clean by police officers and other department employes.

The work has been financed with overtime pay, police officials said, because it would take the city too long to get the remodeling done through normal channels.

In an interview in his wood-paneled office last week, Inspector Roland W. Perry, the department's chief of finance and the man who has approved the overtime, said the remodeling leads to "better employe morale."

Perry's own office complex, including two walls in his private office, has recently been repainted pale yellow, at a cost of $1,374.12 in overtime.

Some police officers privately have questioned the propriety of paying overtime to refurbish the offices of top officials while the department has cut police service to a minimum on holidays in order to avoid paying extra compensation.

"This isn't going to bode well for them at budget time, I can tell you that," said City Councilman David A. Clarke, head of the committee that oversees police finances, when told of the practice.

"I think it's improper for the chief of police to appear before the council and advocate additional personnel to keep crime down when he's using overtime to paint offices."

In the last four years former chief Maurice J. Cullinane, former assistant chief Tilmon B. O'Bryant, deputy chief Robert W. Klotz, as well as Perry, have all had their office areas improved by police department employes working on overtime.

In an interview, Perry emphasized that even at overtime rates the police department saves money over what it would have to pay the city's Department of General Services to do the same work.

That point, however, is a matter of contention.

In the past five weeks, Perry has paid overtime to his payroll chief, Sgt. Thomas J. Pilot, at $14.91 an hour, and to a police carpenter, Richard T. Bender, at $13.98 an hour, to repaint the financial management branch offices.

The city's Department of General Services, which normally does the painting of city-owned buildings, charges agencies at an hourly rate of $14.17.

Harold Henson, assistant DGS director for maintenance and repair, when asked about paying police overtime to paint, said, "They're not doing it, I hope." Told that they were, Henson said, "I don't think they should be doing it."

He said that, under the D.C. COde, his agency has authority for maintenance and repairs, and that policemen, even a police carpenter, might not be performing the work up to specifications. "But how would we know about it?" he asked. He then said he would begin calling police officials to find out what is going on.

The DGS policy is to repaint offices every five years, according to an agency spokesman. Because of the volume of work, some agencies have to wait even longer than that, the spokesman said.

To circumvent the wait, some policemen in the past have obtained paint from DGS and voluntarily painted their own offices, according to police sources. These sources said they were unaware that overtime could be paid for such a task.

Perry said in an interview last Friday that he would approve overtime for office improvements, "if it will contribute to general working conditions."

Perry, 34, made inspector two years ago and is one of the youngest ever to make that rank. He has been mentioned by some senior officials as a potential chief of police.

The exact amount paid to police em- the offices of the financial management branch on weekends. Lt. Marshall Lohr, who works elsewhere at headquarters and who car-pools to work with Pilot, received $337.50 for his help with the painting. Lohr was paid at straight time because officers of his rank cannot receive overtime.

Perry provided a number of figures regarding his involvement in the practice.

Earlier this year, Pilot was paid $849.87 and Bender $524.25 to paint the office of finance and management on weekends. Lt. Marshall Lohr, who works elsewhere at headquarters and who car-pools to work with Pilot, received $337.50 for his help with the painting. Lohr was paid at straight time because officers of his rank cannot receive overtime.

Perry said that "the general atmosphere has improved a whole helluva lot," since the new paint job. The entire office area had not been repainted for nearly four years, he said, and was splotched with "dirt, scruff marks and handprints."

On Jan. 10 and Feb. 6, according to Perry. The authorized a total of $423.68 -- overtime to Pilot and straight time to Lohr -- to sweep, mop and wax the floors of the financial management offices.

He had this done, Perry explained, because the janitorial service at police headquarters was not satisfactory.

We're here to enforce the law, not paint offices," said Larry Simons, president of the local police union. "It sounds like somebody's got 'em a nice job by knowing the right people. I think it's a ripoff. Who controls the spending?"

Perry, in the chain of command, is accountable directly to the chief of police.

Last year Bender and two other civilian employes spent 532 hours partitioning and repainting offices for some of Perry's top aides. In 1975, Bender and a colleague spent 426 hours installing wood paneling and other improvements in Cullinane's office complex.

Bender said he could not recall how much of all that work was overtime, but he believed most of it was accomplished during regular hours.

I don't see anything wrong with it," (working overtime), Bender said. He says he needs to because of the backlog of jobs (12 as of last Friday). Last year, he said, he made $4,100 in overtime, at least a third of which came from work in perry's office.

In response to a question Bender said that in recent years he installed wood paneling in the offices of Klotz, O'Bryant and the department's general counsel at a cost of hundreds of dollars in overtime.

Police officials claim wood paneling saves money in the long run because it doesn't have to be repainted. few rooms in the department have it, they say, because the initial cost is so high.

Perry insisted that the police department saves money by paying overtime because the cost of using DGS "always costs more than the estimates." Nevertheless, he said there is no plan to implement such a savings throughout the department because "not a lot of them (police officers) want to expend the effort" to paint on overtime.

Councilman Clarke said that if there is any savings the police department may have come up with a "model program" for other city agencies, but he said "the whole thing should be assessed with the council."