The State Department said yesterday that no change of policy was involved in the recent visit to the United States of three high-ranking South African police officials.

The officials, a lieutenant general and two major generals in the South African National Police, were given visas to the United States after a "case-by-case" review of their applications, according to department spokesmen.

Those involved are a Lt. Gen. Claasen, whose first name was not available, and Maj. Gens. Lothar Paul Neethling and H.V. Verster. The latter two came to the United States to attend the convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in New Orleans several weeks ago, according to the State Department.

Controversy erupted early this year about the visits of several high-ranking South African military officers, in view of existing U.S. policy against such high-level visits.

The State Department said at the time that U.S. consular officials in South Africa had been misled about the identity of those seeking the visas. The department later reaffirmed the policy.

The policy against high-level military visits does not apply to police, according to the State Department, and therefore no change in policy is reflected in the recent visas.

The visa restrictions also do not apply to retired officers, according to the State Department spokesmen in discussing the current visit of retired Army major general Neil Webster.

According to members of the South African press, Webster said his 33-member delegation's visit was "a breakthrough" that could not have occurred prior to the Reagan administration.