Sheriff Deputy entertaining inmates in prison? No way … yes way ... Susan Rodriguez style
Susan Rodriguez has had quite an interesting life. She was born in Dallas and lived on 10th Street in 1958 in the heart of the area known as Oak Cliff. Her single mom decided to move from east Oak Cliff to DeSoto in 1967. That was where she grew up, somewhat of a “tomboy,” riding horses and mini bikes.
Music was her way of life, until it wasn’t
In the 1960s, her mother became a piano teacher in DeSoto. Rodriguez says, “My mother taught me (and a number of children) how to play a piano, but, of course, I never liked to practice. My dad kind of left behind his trumpet, and I picked it up and started playing it in my 7th grade junior high band. All the rest of my school years – up until I graduated from DeSoto High School in 1976, I enjoyed playing the trumpet and being a part of the DeSoto Eagle Band." That music experience led Rodriguez to a partial music scholarship award to Stephen F. Austin University upon graduation, but she turned it down. She adds that along the way, she learned to play guitar and became a member of a country band for a while.
"However, God had a different plan for my life besides music, even though I began writing my own songs in the 1970s, which I hope will be the soundtrack for my book that I’m currently working on,” she says.
Variety of career choices, 'but the law won'
Rodriguez’s first job was being a lifeguard. Then, she moved on to selling boots and jeans at a western wear store at Redbird Mall. But the major shift in her life came when she became involved in the world of law enforcement.
She shares, “I joined the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department in 1978 and went to the police academy – where I found myself face-down doing push-ups and running laps around Cobb Stadium in downtown Dallas in the dog days of summer. After a little desk duty, I hit the streets of Dallas, as I began life as a sheriff deputy, with my newly-starched uniform, badge, gun, etc. What a way to be thrust into a dangerous position where I had to sink or swim, at a very young age!”
Rodriguez is proud of the 42 years she has put in as a Dallas Sheriff Deputy. She is currently a Commander of Administration in the Dallas Sheriffs’ Posse and Mounted Horseback Unit. She holds this position, after a freak accident caused her career to be somewhat re-routed.
She says, “A good friend of mine named Karen McMillan invited me to try her church – First Baptist Church Dallas – located just two blocks from the scene where my heartbreaking accident happened. I liked the church and began to attend quite frequently.” Rodriquez relays, “One morning, while I was in my car and listening to a radio Bible show, I surrendered to Jesus from behind the wheel of my car while driving to work. The narrator was quoting scripture about how we don’t know the hour or day that Jesus will return, so, I ‘caved’, giving Him full control of my life.”
She explains, “Later that very day, I was struck down in downtown Dallas by a falling
commercial-grade outdoor table and canopy that fell on me.” She continues, “This giant mishap occurred in 2009, and it almost killed me. You’d think after running SWAT-style on the streets of Dallas, that I’d probably get taken out by a bad guy, but ‘no’ – it turned out to be by a flying umbrella and an iron courtyard table coming down from above – Mary Poppins style! That event let me know that God was moving me out of my police career into His ministry.”
Rodriguez says this misfortune caused her to retire in 2009 after 31 years of
service. She then joined the Sheriff’s Posse as a volunteer, fighting crime from horseback and keeping her commissioned Master Peace Officer license alive, which she still carries the same badge for to this day. "Looking back, I spent three decades as a warrant investigator. I tracked down and arrested wanted fugitives daily. I worked high profile violent crimes, dealt with escapees, and worked crime stopper ‘tips’, and often apprehended the ‘worst of the worst’ criminals around. But little did I know that God would later on use these law enforcement interventions for His glory.”
A new lifestyle of following Jesus
“One afternoon”, says Rodriguez, “I was reading my Bible in my car when a would-be bandit attempted to rob me at my window. In the effort to save my life, I pushed my Bible (Sword of the Spirit) out the window as a diversionary device, and boldly asked the robber if he knew Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The power of God’s Word knocked him down on the pavement. I was shocked at the scene. A few minutes later, he came back to my car window again. Fearing for my life, I shoved the Bible again out my window, forcing him back! Of course, I was armed, and trying to be retired, so I prayed I would not have to resort to using deadly force. The bandit proceeded to the trunk of his car. I thought for sure that he was going for a rifle, but instead, he pulled out a big bag of candy, which spilled all over the parking lot. This unstable young man got down and began to eat the candy off the ground. I approached him with Bible in hand, and he explained to me he had just been released from jail on an aggravated robbery charge, and how he had planned to rob me. Right then and there, I opened my Bible and prayed with him and he accepted Jesus and drove away.
"I called a friend of mine and told her what happened, and she said, ‘Girl, you gotta get yourself into prison ministry!’ I replied, ‘No way. If any of the prisoners recognized me, my life would be over.’ The friend then asked me, ‘Are you really going to tell God NO’?”
In June 2013, Rodriguez found herself walking up to the prison with a Bible in one hand and guitar in the other. Over the years, she has used these two tools to deliver God’s Word, and, yes, some of the inmates recognized her instantly.
She says, “I was locked inside with them and surrounded by 42 women inmates, most
convicted of murder. I wasn’t sure if I was in the lions’ den or the furnace. But Jesus covered me once again. He is a mighty fortress, as I ministered to some of those I had apprehended decades ago. This is how the First Baptist Dallas prison ministry began. God sent me and used me to pave the way for others to go into jails and prisons – from Dallas to Seagoville and even to Venus, Texas. I had served just shy of seven years every Monday – until COVID-19 struck, and the inmates went under lock down. I consider this pandemic a time where they have been moved to draw closer to the Lord. I can't physically be with the inmates right now, but I feel a piece of me is still there right with them.”
She is also a part of the prison group led by June Hunt, founder of "Hope For The
Heart" in Plano and an author, speaker, and radio broadcaster on FM 90.9 "Hope In The
Night." Rodriguez says Hunt inspired her and taught her how to make disciples out of inmates.
Rodriguez has been married 33 years to Freddy Rodriguez, who worked as an Ellis
County jailer. They met at a police rodeo. Freddy and Susan relocated to Midlothian in 1987. Then they moved to Dallas for a short while so she could run for Dallas Sheriff in 2016. Her political bid was unsuccessful, so they returned to Midlothian later in 2016 to present time.
They have been members of FBC Dallas since 2012. Both are active in the “Hope For The Heart Ministry”. The Rodriguez family have two grown children and now have two grandchildren that they deeply cherish.
Susan Rodriguez has attended University of Dallas, Mountain View and Dallas Baptist
University and is just a few classes short of a Criminal Justice Degree.