Trevor A. Hampton, who was hired last week as Alexandria's next police chief, withdrew from the job last night, citing "personal and family reasons" as he prepared to interview for the position of chief of the police force in Durham, N.C., where he is one of seven finalists.

"Family responsibilities must take precedence over professional responsibilities," Hampton said in a phone interview early today from Durham, where he is scheduled to talk to city officials today. "The Hampton family at this time wishes to remain in the Carolinas." Hampton, 41, is now deputy police chief in Columbia, S.C.

His withdrawal from the Alexandria job was announced by City Manager Vola Lawson after a closed meeting with the City Council. She said that she was disappointed and that "it is particularly unfortunate, since he had already signed an employment agreement and we were looking forward to his leadership of the police department."

Lawson said that Hampton, who would have been the city's first black police chief, told her of his decision in a phone conversation about 10:30 p.m. She said the Alexandria City Council will reconvene its selection panel to continue the search for a successor for Chief Charles T. Strobel, who retired in September.

Earlier yesterday, Lawson said Hampton had not contacted her about his Durham interviews and that she was "very surprised" that he was pursuing them. "There are no outstanding issues," she had said. "He seemed very enthusiastic about working here."

Hampton said in the phone interview early today that his wife Kimberly, a native of South Carolina, "was not familiar with Alexandria. She felt like she was in the Northeast -- the high-rises, the congestion and the things that go along with that environment. She was uncomfortable with that."

He called his decision difficult and said: "Alexandria is an outstanding community with a good police department that I would have been honored to serve on."

Last Wednesday Hampton flew with his wife to Alexandria from Columbia and announced at a news conference that he had accepted the $65,474-a-year Alexandria post. He said he would begin work March 1 and later spoke to members of the department at police headquarters.

"My wife, her first exposure to Alexandria was the day we flew up there," Hampton said yesterday. "The opportunity for input from her {about Alexandria} was not what I would have liked. From a family point of view, there are some concerns about moving into a densely populated area."

For the past four years the Alexandria Police Department has been impaired by allegations of wrongdoing, mismanagement and cronyism. Chief Strobel was a subject of two grand jury investigations before he was cleared on charges of interfering with a drug probe.

As he retired in September, an internal review found "significant failure of top management" in the department.

Lawson's search for a new chief has been difficult. When the job was initially advertised last summer, she received fewer applications than she expected. And after two top contenders dropped out in October, she readvertised and relaxed the job requirements. Hampton was chosen from more than 100 applicants.

Durham, whose population and police force are about the same size as Alexandria's, is looking for a successor to retiring Police Chief Talmadge Lassiter.

Coincidentally, Lassiter, 53, was one of three finalists for the Alexandria job and lost out to Hampton.

"We're delighted to have {Hampton} as a candidate," said Durham City Manager Orville Powell. "We don't want to cause our neighbors to the north any problems. But I certainly understand his family situation."

The Durham finalists include three men from the Washington area: George Brosnan, a former superintendent of the Maryland State Police; James Carvino, a consultant to the Justice Department and a former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Atkins Warren, a community relations mediator for the Justice Department.