Rodriguez is sympathetic face of police department

By Ed Brock

Rochelle Rodriguez's smiling face is usually the first one visitors to Clayton County Police Department headquarters will see.

But 25-year-old Rodriguez does more than answer the phones at the front desk in the echoing, sunlit lobby of the Clayton County Police/911/Emergency Operations Center in Jonesboro. For one thing, the New York native has spoken and written Spanish since childhood, so she is called on for various translation duties.

She's even gone in the field with the detectives.

"It was just being out there looking for a suspect or interviewing victims," Rodriguez said.

And she helped out when the department's SWAT unit decided they needed to do something to personalize their briefing room.

"The room was just blah!" Rodriguez said. "I said why don't you guys get some pictures together and we'll get them matted."

Rodriguez and her family moved to Clayton County 12 years ago after visiting an uncle who lives in the area.

"We fell in love with Atlanta," Rodriguez said.

She finished Morrow middle and high schools, after which she worked a couple of jobs, including teaching Spanish and working in the day care at Community Christian Academy. It was Detective Hank Derbyshire who got her the job at police headquarters last year.

"He goes to my church. He had suggested the job to a friend of mine and she couldn't take it," Rodriguez said.

Her title is "police services clerk," but she's also had the title "teacher." She taught a survival Spanish class to the officers in the department, something Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner said emphasizes her value as an employee.

"That's been a real help to the guys on the road," Turner said.

Sometimes Rodriguez plays the role of on-the-spot counselor as well.

"You have a lot of victims who come in here and they always get emotional," Rodriguez said.

She offers them a tissue and a smile.

Rodriguez has a whole other job when she gets home to the house she just bought in Stockbridge. She is the single mother of 3-year-old Quala Ham, her daughter who is just starting day care.

As for whether or not she would some day want to wear a badge and carry a gun, Rodriguez said she's interested in criminal investigations but she's not sure about actually becoming a police officer.

"But I enjoy working with them, I really do," Rodriguez said.

Everday People is a regular feature of the News Daily that runs every Friday. If you know somebody in the community with an interesting story, call Editor Bob Paslay at (770) 478-5753 ext. 257 or e-mail him at bpaslay@news-daily.com .