William C. Cleveland, 36, a U.S. Capitol Police officer, announced yesterday that he had filed as a Republican candidate for the Alexandria City Council.

Cleveland, said by many to be the first black Republican candidate in Alexandria's history, said yesterday that because of his historic candidacy, "Black Alexandrians can now look to the Republican Party and find a familiar face."

Alexandria, a city long dominated by Democrats, had its first Republican mayoral candidate in more than a century in 1982, when council member Robert L. Calhoun challenged Mayor Charles E. Beatley.

"This is a further sign that the Republican Party is gaining membership across the spectrum," Virginia Republican spokeswoman Mary Jacobi said of Cleveland's candidacy.

Cleveland faces Calhoun in the March 5 Republican primary along with two incumbent Republicans, Margaret B. Inman and Carlyle C. Ring, and three newcomers: Juan Williams, J. Harvey Harrison and Gus Lamonde.

Cleveland, who was working yesterday securing manhole covers along the inaugural parade route, said his interest in public safety led him to pilot Alexandria's first Block Watch program. He said the volunteer program, in which residents patrol their own neighborhoods to deter crime, proved so successful that there are now 86 Block Watch programs in the city.

Cleveland, who lives in the Del Ray section, has been an Alexandria resident for 14 years. He said that if elected he would push for a lower tax rate and improved affordable housing.

Asked whether he thought he could win a seat on Democratic-controlled council that has only one black member, Cleveland said, "I've never done things in the normal way, and it's worked out before."