A group of black D.C. police officials criticized the leader of the principal police union yesterday for his "attacks" on Police Chief Burtell Jefferson and issued a statement in support of the chief.

The Organization of Black Metropolitan Police Officials, a group representing 50 black officers with the rank of lieutenant or above, said criticisms by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 442 "are totally without basis."

The union has sharply criticized the chief about several issues, most recently the reinstatement of controversial Deputy Police Chief William Trussell to head criminal investigations.

Isaac Fulwood, the black group's president, said a broadcast remark that the union's president, Larry Simmons, made about the the chief, has racial overtones. Simons, in a television interview, said the chief "should just go back upstairs and climb back into his cage."

Larry Melton, the union's vice president, said the remark was not racially motivated. He said Simons made the comment while describing the way the chief isolates himself from officers by staying in his fifth-floor office at headquarters.

Melton said Simons apologized for the remark at a union meeting Wednesday night.

However, Fulwood said Simons should publicly apologize to the chief and the community.