Police superintendent James C. Parsons resigned yesterday because of the morning criticism of his department that followed police killings of four persons during a manhunt.

Parsons' resignation, which will take effect Monday, was announced at a news conference by Mayor Ernest N. Morial. Parsons was not present.

Parsons, who came here in the summer of 1978 from Birmingham, Ala., was unavailable for comment on his plans. But months before the shootings, his departure by the end of this year -- and a possible return to his job as Birmingham's police chief -- had been viewed as a near-certainty among New Orleans police officers.

Besides announcing Parsons' resignation, Morial, the first black mayor in the city history, told reporters he will set up an independent commission to investigate the killings, which happened nearly two weeks ago while police were searching for the slayer of patrolman Gregory Neupert. The killings already are being investigated by the FBI, the Orleans Parish (county) district attorney's office, the police department and two civil rights groups.

Neupert, who was slain Nov. 8 while on patrol, was white. The three men and a woman killed in the wake of the slaying were black, and their deaths enraged the city's black community.

The three -- James Billy Jr., Reginald Miles and Sherry Singleton -- were killed during raids on two homes early Nov. 13 after a black man was killed Nov. 11 when police claimed he drew a knife. Police said Billy and Miles killed Neupert, but the dead men's relatives denied the charge, claiming instead that the two were victims of a police department "revenge squad."