Three-fired Houston policemen began year-and-a-day sentences in a minimum-security federal prison in the police abuse death of a Mexican-American.

Meanwhile, four Miami police officers were charged with manslaughter in the beating death of a businessman after a high-speed chase, and in Atlantic City, N.J., more than 90 percent of the police force called in sick in a contract protest.

Terry Wayne Denson, 29; Stephen Orlando, 24, and Joseph James Janish, 25, traveled unescorted from Texas to report to the federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

They were convicted last year of civil rights violations in the May 5, 1977, beating and drowning in a Houston bayou of Joe Campos Torres, 23. Torres had been arrested shortly before his death in a barroom disturbance.

Investigators charged the four Miami policemen beat insurance executive Arthur McDuffle, 33, with flashlights and billy clubs and clubbed his motorcyle as well -- an attempt to make the death look like an accident.

"It was no accident," said Bobby L. Jones, acting director of the Metropolitan Dade County Department of Public Safety. "It appears the 'accident' was a subterfuge to cover up what actually happened."

In Atlantic City a judge ordered the Atlantic City police officers staging a "sick-out" to return to work immediately. Officers began returning early today.

The order came as state troopers on standby alert patrolled the outskirts of the gambling resort, where more than 90 percent of the 270 officers called in sick on the second day of a contract protest.

Superior Court Judge Gerald Weinstein issued the order to members of Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Local 24. "It's a municipal emergency and a danger to the public and to the safety of the community," he said.