The Optimist Club of Alexandria honored three Alexandria law enforcement officers with the Respect for Law Award at a luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Belle Haven Country Club. Officer Marcus Downey of the Alexandria Police Department and Deputy Mark Jessup and Deputy Brian Bell of the Alexandria Sheriff's Office were recognized for their outstanding service and in particular for their efforts for young people. Sue Wilson, president of the Optimist Club, presented the awards to Officer Downey and Deputy Jessup. Deputy Bell was unable to attend.
Officer Downey, a member of the Patrol Operations Bureau, has worked diligently for the past four years to revitalize the Alexandria Police Youth Camp. In addition to spending significant time at the camp during the summers working with underprivileged children, he now serves on the camp's board and also works closely with School Resources Officers and the Alexandria City Public Schools to identify young people who could most benefit from time at the camp. He also ensures that the camp is well-maintained and is on its Capital Improvement Committee overseeing major upgrades.
Deputy Jessup, who serves in the Judicial and Special Operations Bureau as the gang deputy, has been a dedicated mentor to students at Charles Barrett Elementary for the past three years. The first member of the Sheriff's Office to volunteer as a school mentor, he meets weekly with his mentee to encourage positive choices, high self-esteem and academic achievement. Deputy Jessup hopes that his encouragement and support will help the students he mentors to achieve their full potential, effectively solve problems, and grow to be successful adults.
Deputy Bell, who is assigned to the Alexandria Detention Center, was recognized as a committed volunteer at East of Anacostia, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth and children. Deputy Bell spends much of his personal time mentoring young people who face significant challenges in their daily life by supporting their academic progress, supervising their completion of homework and school assignments, and organizing educational outings, like trips to museums and historic sites.
The Optimist Club of Alexandria is now in its 66th year. Past president Carolyn Miller chairs the club's Respect for Law program and annual awards.