Police use donation from Odessa Study Club for K-9 vest

Cpl. Calvin Tayler joined exclusive company at the Odessa Police Department.
The 27-year-old from New Mexico is the fifth officer in OPD’s K-9 Unit.
On Monday afternoon, Tayler and his 23-month-old male Belgian Malinois received a gift from the Odessa Study Club to help keep the K-9 safe on the streets.
The Odessa Study Club donated $1,000, which will help pay for a fitted ballistic vest for the K-9.
“He could end up saving my life and I could save his,” Tayler said about working with his K-9. “It’s a team bond. We work together.
“It’s awesome for the K-9 as well because it could save the K-9’s life. They work just like us and we wear body armor. A lot of police dogs are killed nationwide because they don’t have body armor on. It’s a great thing that happened here today.”
Rhonda Gilliam, president of Odessa Study Club, said during an interview on Monday afternoon that the 28 members of the group wanted to do something special for their 80th year of existence.
The Odessa Study Club collected donations to pay for the K-9’s vest and presented the check to Odessa Police Department Chief Michael Gerke.
“We appreciate our officers and we know they need protection and the ones that have the K-9s need protection, too,” Gilliam said.
Gerke said the funds to purchase the OPD’s fifth K-9 and the dog’s training were given by 11-year-old Randi Spenser. The 11-year-old raised $17,093.52 by selling hot chocolate, a previous Odessa American article said.
The OPD chief said it’s important to protect the investment, like the department would for an officer.
“The K-9s are part of our police family,” Gerke said. “They are part of the force and we want to make sure they are protected. We feel that should be protected like the human officers.”
Tayler said he’s eager to start patrol as part of the K-9 unit. He said the chance to transition to the K-9 unit was the main reason why he moved from New Mexico to Odessa two years ago.
As of June 5, there were 154 sworn officers with 28 openings. Only about 3 percent of active OPD officers are part of the K-9 unit.
“I’ve strived to be in the K-9 unit for about five years now," Tayler said. “When I had the opportunity to apply (in Odessa), that’s when I really started working toward it.”