Trevor A. Hampton, deputy chief of police in Columbia, S.C., will be named chief of the beleaguered Alexandria Police Department today, city officials said yesterday.

Alexandria City Manager Vola Lawson scheduled a City Hall news conference for this afternoon to announce the appointment, ending a difficult six-month search that was initially hampered by a lack of qualified applicants. City officials said that Hampton accepted the job yesterday, after city administrators interviewed eight top contenders for the job last weekend.

Hampton, 41, will take over a department that for the past four years has been hampered by highly publicized allegations of misconduct by then-Police Chief Charles T. Strobel. Strobel was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, but retired under pressure in September after an internal investigation found "significant failure of top management" in the department.

Lawson and other city officials also have said that the new chief must quickly address a serious drug problem -- street drug sales have become increasingly visible in several poor neighborhoods -- and increase the number of black and minority officers. Hampton will be the only black in a senior police department job.

Hampton is expected to attend today's news conference.

A veteran of almost 20 years in law enforcement, Hampton was also one of seven finalists in contention to become police chief of Durham, N.C.

Hampton began his police career in Greensboro, N.C., where he rose from patrolman to the rank of captain. In 1984, after 16 years in Greensboro, he took his current job in Columbia, where he oversees the police department's personnel and support divisions. He is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, is married and has three children.

Lawson began her search for a new chief last summer, several months after Strobel announced his intention to retire. But recruiting advertisements in national law enforcement publications attracted fewer than 30 applicants, far short of the number Lawson had hoped for. In October, after Lawson had selected five finalists, two of them dropped out.

She then halted the search and started from scratch, this time personally soliciting recruits and relaxing the requirements for the job. She had previously limited the search to people who were already police chiefs, a standard that would have eliminated Hampton. By the cutoff date early last month she had received almost 100 applications.

City officials said the final selection process began last weekend, when municipal administrators and several consultants interviewed eight semifinalists at a Crystal City hotel. They narrowed the field to three finalists, who were then interviewed by a small group of community leaders, said the officials.

The advertised salary range for the job was $56,000 to $62,000 a year. The Alexandria Police Department has an annual budget of $17 million and 310 employees, including 233 sworn officers.

Acting Alexandria Police Chief Arlen Justice applied for the job, but city officials said he was not one of three finalists. Last summer, members of a police labor organization urged Lawson to hire a new chief from outside the department, a recommendation that officers said demonstrated low morale and dissatisfaction with the current leadership.