You have probably seen K-9 handler and Patrol Officer Molly Ralph, along with her canine companion, Odin, patrolling The University of Texas-Pan American, working together as a team to keep the campus safe.
Their positive working relationship has caught the attention of the UT System, as it selected Ralph as Officer of the Month for July.
"I was told that I am doing a good job in general here at the University and that in itself is a huge honor, I wasn't expecting it," said Ralph, who began working at UTPA in 2010 and has been handling the now 2-year-old Odin for about a year. "I am just starting to get my feet wet, trying to gain more experience and put myself out there and get involved."
UTPA Police Department Assistant Chief James Loya said he is excited that UT System recognized Ralph and selected her to be this month's officer of the month.
"This is such a great honor for officer Ralph and we here at UTPA are very proud of her commitment and dedication," said Loya. "She's such a good officer and we are very glad to have her on our team. She does a great job with us here in our department and we hope she continues to do so."
There are about 450 law enforcement officers employed by UT System, Loya said.
Officers are selected by Michael J. Heidingsfield, director of police for UT System, which comprises 15 academic and health institutions throughout the state.
"I personally choose the officers based on whom I encounter as I travel to the system's police departments around the state. Inevitably, some officers stand out for taking on a new challenge, breaking down traditional barriers and bringing credit to themselves, their department and the profession," Heidingsfield said.
Heidingsfield credits Ralph for taking on the assignment of K-9 officer.
"Molly did well at the academy and did not hesitate to take on a new and challenging assignment (K-9) when the opportunity arose," Heidingsfield said. "Being a K-9 officer has many implications and greater time responsibilities and not everyone is prepared to handle those. Molly clearly is and I am proud of her commitment. She has set a new standard for all of us."
UTPA is the second school in the UT System to have a K-9 unit on campus. The University purchased two Belgium Malinois in July 2011 as an added tool to its department. The Malinois breed is commonly mistaken for German Shepherds but are thinner and lighter in color.
Ralph also has training as a Bike Officer and is a Rape Aggression Defense Instructor. She is actively seeking her intermediate license and hopes to obtain training to be a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) instructor, Drug Recognition Expert, and an Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Certified and Mental Health Officer.
She also enjoys providing training sessions to UTPA's Office of Residence Life on drug and alcohol awareness as well as giving presentations on her role as a K-9 patrol officer.
Outside of her police duties, Ralph advises two student organizations on campus; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) club and Zeta Beta Theta, an academic sorority.
Ralph is proud of her accomplishments at the University and looks forward to working more with Odin.
"It's really been more about quality than anything specific. I think I am very dependable. That's something very important to me, to be a K-9 officer and being able to accomplish what I have so far. I am very proud of that and am grateful for the opportunity I have here at UTPA," Ralph said.