Veteran Santa Monica College (SMC) police officer Mark Kessler has been named “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” by the Santa Monica Elks Lodge.

Kessler was selected from a group of five officers nominated by the Santa Monica Police Department, FBI, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, UCLA Police Department and SMC Police Department.

“We were very pleased and very proud of Officer Kessler,” SMC Police Chief Al Vasquez said. “It shows the level of training and sophistication of our officers and that we do a good job.”

Vasquez said this is only the second year that SMC has submitted a nomination to the Elks, making Kessler’s award even more impressive.

Kessler, who has been with the college police for 22 years, was recognized for, among other things, his leadership as the training coordinator for the department, an Elks spokesman said. He has also been praised for developing a crime prevention program targeted to SMC’s large international student population, speaking to students at orientation classes.

In addition, he teaches first aid and CPR to officers in both the SMC and Santa Monica police departments.

“I’ve enjoyed working with students, seeing their insight and energy,” Kessler said. “SMC is an amazing place. In law enforcement, you usually see negatives, but at SMC while there are some negatives and we do arrest people from time to time, it’s mostly an enjoyable contact with people.”

A Santa Clarita resident, Kessler received his associate of arts degree from Los Angeles Valley College and holds a certificate in administration of justice. He received his law enforcement training at the Rio Hondo Police Academy.

Kessler and his wife Tamara have three children, Alyssa, 19, and twins Ryan and Danielle, 16.