It will be a while before the bitterness subsides, and there are soured political friendships that may never be as they were. But the uproar that erupted in Alexandria's city hall and consumed nearly everyone there for the last two months is officially over -- with not a shred of formal evidence that any wrongdoing as alleged ever occurred. On the contrary, from the looks of the special grand jury's report, the targets of the allegations were victims of a considerable smear.

The grand jury's focus was on allegations by a former Alexandria police detective and two policemen that Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel had aborted an investigation into cocaine use at a restaurant early last year in spite of leads the policemen claimed could have led to evidence of possible drug use by Sheriff Michael E. Norris. News of the allegations first appeared in a local newspaper, the Alexandria Port Packet. City Council member Donald C. Casey, who brought the allegations to the attention of the council, and Mayor Charles E. Beatley became Mr. Strobel's most vocal critics.

So what's the result? After hearing 32 witnesses and reviewing 6,000 pages of documents, the special grand jury not only found the allegations without any substance, but also went on to rip into unnamed council members for "callous, politically motivated" actions that it said were aimed at damaging reputations. It called the actions of these certain council members "one of the lowest points in Alexandria's political history."

That's the nasty part of all this; the sad part is the damage that has been done to the image of local government in general and certain public servants in particular. Residents can only hope that the air clears totally, as well as quickly.