When Alexandria Police Officer Jeffery A. Gravat showed up for work Saturday night, he got an unexpectedly personal look at law enforcement: He was arrested.

Gravat, 24, a three-year member of the Alexandria Police Department, was taken into custody by fellow officers and charged with three counts of assault and battery. He was not jailed but was placed on leave from his job while the charges are pending.

According to police spokeswoman Lucy Crockett, Gravat was arrested in police headquarters just before he was scheduled to begin a patrol shift.

Crockett said the charges against Gravat stem from a party on West Duke Street in Alexandria the previous night.

Gravat allegedly attended the party, Crockett said, but he was off duty at the time.

Sometime after midnight, a fight broke out among the guests, Crockett said.

Three of those present -- Crockett identified them only as Mark Andino, Curt Andino and James Cooper -- charged that Gravat and two others attacked them without provocation.

The Andinos and Cooper swore out warrants against Gravat early Saturday, each charging him with assault and battery.

Crockett said that no one else has been charged in the incident. "We're trying to determine what happened, but it's a little unclear so far," Crockett said. "Sometimes these things at parties are just unclear."

Gravat came to police headquarters Saturday night with the intention of beginning work, Crockett said, but the warrants were served on him and he was sent home.

Neither Gravat nor any of those bringing the charges could be reached for comment yesterday.

The charges against Gravat come at a time of considerable uncertainty for the Alexandria Police Department.

Police Chief Charles T. Strobel has announced plans to retire in December and only about 25 people have applied for his job, a number that city officials call disappointing. City officials say morale among many officers is low.

The department is also investigating allegations that a former narcotics officer, David B. Goldberg, may have tipped off the targets of an ongoing drug probe and that Goldberg's commander, Lt. Arthur L. Bratcher, failed to act on those allegations for about two months.

Deputy Police Chief John Streeter has said that Bratcher violated department procedures by failing to notify his superiors of the allegations against Goldberg as soon as he heard them.

Goldberg's lawyer has denied that his client leaked information about the probe.