Father Tony

All Christina Rodriguez Ever Wanted Was To Be A Cop

Filed By Father Tony | August 28, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Christina Rodriguez, gay cop, lesbian cop

"It's all in my high school memory book where I said I wanted to become an undercover agent, a detective and a member of a SWAT team. I accomplished my goals. Now I'm 40 and things didn't work out the way I thought, but I know who I am and I have never been happier."

christina rodriguez.jpgChristina Rodriguez is able to say this wistfully but without anger or bitterness while describing her life as a Hollywood, Florida policewoman in a profession that some might call a deck stacked against her because she is a woman, a Latina and a lesbian.

Originally from the Bronx and of Puerto Rican descent, Christina grew up in south Florida where she was a popular girl who had a passion for physical activity and for helping others. She did not realize her passion for women until she began dating one within the ranks in 2003. They kept their relationship quiet. "In my first eight or nine years on the force, 1994 to 2003, I was told not to come out and admit it because if I did, half of the Department would turn its back on me. I kept it quiet to protect both of us and to help our careers. I was used to this because, where I went to school, gay was very taboo. You could get beat up, and I was already a racial minority...."

The strategy seemed to work, as Christina received many opportunities and advancements in exactly the adrenaline driven work she had always wanted. She became a VIN (Vice, Intelligence and Narcotics) undercover agent, dealing with mid-level drug and organized crime situations. She went on to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) representing Hollywood for more than two years, working under cover. "With the DEA, I worked on the big stuff. Multi-million dollar seizures, surveillance, wiretaps. We did some huge drug busts. I remember netting a room full of Ecstasy smuggled in from Amsterdam."

Christina came out slowly to her fellow DEA officers who did not seem to have a problem with her sexuality. She became a close friend of fellow gay police officer Mikey Verdugo who has recently made headlines combatting mistreatment by the Hollywood Police Department. Reassigned to street level narcotics work, she focused locally on crimes related to crack cocaine and prostitution. She loved her work. "Are you kidding? I totally loved it. The more violent the criminal, the more satisfaction I got from catching my guy."

Her sexuality and her work were always a balancing act. "When I first joined the force, I got hit on a lot. When I didn't respond to guys, the rumors started. Even after I stopped denying my sexuality, guys on the job would be like "You just never had some of this yet" and there was always a lot of sarcasm I had to put up with."

2003 was a pivotal moment in Christina's life. Her relationship with a woman coworker had ended and she decided to "start being me" not with a big announcement but by simply not denying her personal truth when asked.

In 2004, on her way home from work, Christina was in a serious car accident. The reaction of her superiors to this accident consisted of initiating an "internal investigation" based on unsubstantiated suspicions. Their actions at that time seemed to establish a pattern in which the quality of her service was not questioned but bureaucratic technicalities that would be insignificant in the appraisals of other officers were highlighted against her. Christina is convinced that although her peers in the Hollywood Police Department were accepting of her as their coworker, her superiors seemed to have forgotten the words they spoke when taking the oath of their office, words promising service without regard to personal beliefs and prejudices.

Removed from the street crimes unit, she was patrolled until 2005 when she pursued an opportunity for SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) training with the encouragement of SWAT team members. In the course of applying for this training, Christina discovered that although she was being forced to pay for her training, the Department was footing that bill for other applicants. She successfully achieved SWAT certification in 2006 and is proud to carry the SWAT coin denoting her achievement. Despite her certification, she was denied a place on the SWAT team by an Assistant Police Chief who told her "It's not time yet." After that, she was consistently denied requests for a variety of positions.

Another on-the-job accident resulted in serious neck injuries that required surgery. Although it was her goal to return to service, Christina's condition and the antagonistic mindset of her superiors became overwhelming and she ended thirteen years of service with a disability retirement. She has not worn a police uniform since March of 2007. It is sad for her to realize that the criminals on the street were much easier to deal with than were her superiors in the Department.

Christina tells the story of her police career with animation and in good spirits. She is lively, personable, optimistic and attractive, but her post-retirement life has not been without difficulty. She sought counseling and help to eliminate the pain medications prescribed for her injuries. She worked hard to achieve balance and peace of mind. She renewed her interest in physical activity albeit within the restrictions of a triple titanium plate, eight screws and two artificial cages in her neck, and she has shed a significant amount of weight. With her good looks and engaging personality, Christina could easily deliver an appealing performance as herself in a TV drama about the tough life of a lesbian cop. Her advice to any rookie gay cop is simple. "Be yourself."

(A version of this profile appears in the current issue of South Florida Gay News where I also write a blog for the online version of the paper.)

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Good for her. It's always heartwarming to see someone overcome adversity.

I don't know. Aren't GLBT rights related to civil rights in general? How could anyone expect much more than callous and oppressive disregard for their personal civil rights from domestic paramilitary entities and bureaucracies like the DEA?

The first SWAT team was formed within the LAPD 1968, the year before the Stonewall riots; in Los Angeles, Ca. the year Nixon's law and order regime was elected into office, three years after the Watts riots and the same year as the Chicago Democratic Convention.

"the first SWAT operations were conducted far north of Los Angeles in the farming community of Delano, California on the border between Kern and Tulare Counties in the great San Joaquin Valley. C├ęsar Chavez' United Farm Workers was staging numerous protests in Delano, both at cold storage facilities and in front of non-supportive farm workers' homes on the city streets"

"The first significant deployment of LAPD's SWAT unit was on December 9, 1969, in a four-hour confrontation with members of the Black Panthers."


SWAT? like swat? like flyswatter? like bugs? like some people in our society are mosquito like parasites that should be swatted like bugs?

"SWAT" is one of the kind of Viet Nam Era terms developed to dehumanize whole populations or segments of populations, first abroad then here at home, to justify what often evolves into phenomenon for which it is difficult not use expressions such as "state sponsored terrorism" to describe.

A local "SWAT" team recently swept down onto the property of a local medical marijuana patient licensed to grow pot where I live. The Health Department is required to keep people's medical information confidential so the police, without the knowledge of the person's medical status, felt justified resorting to this kind of overkill, which is typical and jeopardizes people's safety on the public dime using the thinnest of justifications.

It would be my hope that Christina would use her experience with adversity as an inspiration to channel her will and enormous energy to defend the human rights of everyone.
She could start with the for profit prisons and alien detention centers that have sprouted up all over the country.

A lot of my students go into law enforcement. I can't wait to show them this.

SWAT" is one of the kind of Viet Nam Era terms developed to dehumanize whole populations or segments of populations, first abroad then here at home, to justify what often evolves into phenomenon for which it is difficult not use expressions such as "state sponsored terrorism" to describe.

This is not accurate. SWAT is not a reference to "swatting flies"; it is an acronym for "Special Weapons and Tactics". The first SWAT unit was created by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1968 for the purpose of responding to and managing high-threat situations in which ordinary police officers did not have the training and equipment required to control the situation. Rather than militarize the entire police department, Police Chief Darryl Gates formed a special volunteer unit which would be on-call to handle these rare but dangerous incidents.

I agree that SWAT teams are tremendously overused these days, but I don't think they are a fundamentally illegitimate concept. They do definitely require increased oversight, and I would start by passing laws stating that only large cities are allowed to have them at all. There's just no practical justification for SWAT teams in rural areas, true SWAT-level incidents are so rare that rural SWAT is basically just the "Sheriff's Badass Gun Club".