Republican presidential candidate John Connally yesterday attacked the recent federal suit against alleged police brutality in Philadelphia, saying that the people of that city "are perfectly able to look after themselves."

In a speech before the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Dallas, Connally condemned all such federal efforts as "an unwarranted and outrageous abuse of federal legal authority."

Connally's stand, in the face of three decades of federal participation in such civil rights cases, was unusually strong. It came in a speech with a theme of restoring "the old-fashioned values" and a "concept of order: order abroad, order at home."

He said that "all too often, in a transparent attempt to sensationalize, to pander to fashionable special-interest groups, federal officials persecute the very forces best able to uphold the law and underscore America's ideas -- the police men and women of the United States."

The most "obvious example" of this, he told the police chiefs, was the suit against Philadelphia. The Justice Department sued Philadelphia on Aug. 13, charging the mayor and police department with condoning systematic police brutality.

The suit "totally ignores the historical right of a state and locality to handle its own affairs," Connally said.

"Police officials -- and law enforcement leaders at large -- are reasonable men and women who believe in our Constitution, who strive to support it and who will take those steps necessary to correct intolerable situations where they find them."

The federal attack on police departments, Connally said, was initiated by "politically muddled do-gooders," "self styled 'better people,'" "bureaucrats" and "a desire to appease a small but vitriolic anti-police constituency."