A high-ranking Alexandria police officer sued Acting City Manager Vola Lawson and the Alexandria City Council yesterday, charging that Lawson was named interim manager because she promised to "get" Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel.

Lt. John R. Stedman, the personnel director of the city's police, fire, and inspections departments, also said in the lawsuit filed in Alexandria Circuit Court that Mayor Charles E. Beatley had recently boasted that he would "chop Strobel off at the knees."

"Mr. Stedman's allegations are false," Lawson said yesterday.

Mayor Beatley, who along with the other six City Council members is up for reelection Tuesday, said the lawsuit was "part of the political campaign. Someone trying to get their last shot in." The mayor denied ever saying anything "bad" about Strobel.

Lawson said she did not know why she was named in the lawsuit because the city attorney had told Stedman that it was the council's duty to determine if Stedman should be reimbursed for legal fees he incurred during a recent city investigation of the police force.

Stedman asked in the lawsuit that he be reimbursed for the $17,000 in legal fees he paid during a recent special grand jury investigation connected with a police drug probe. Stedman was never accused of any criminal misconduct in the matter.

Council member Donald C. Casey, whom Stedman also blasted in the suit for "malicious and unethical acts," said the council was still considering whether to pay Stedman's fees, but that the lieutenant was requesting payment for "unreasonable $200-an-hour fees."

"It's a last-minute political smear . . . " said Casey, adding that "the only one who stands to gain" from the suit is former vice mayor James P. Moran, who is running as an independent against Beatley.

Lawson ordered sweeping changes in the police department Monday, describing the police response to a call for help from an 89-year-old woman "unsatisfactory and inappropriate." Two police officers dispatched to the home of Ada Belle Allan on Jan. 26 went to a nearby home by mistake while the woman was being molested.

Strobel recently was praised by a special grand jury that rejected allegations that he had thwarted a drug investigation by city police. Beatley and Casey had asked former city manager Douglas Harman to suspend Strobel during the inquiry.