In NY1's ongoing coverage of Hispanic Heritage Month, the station profiles the chief crime fighter in the FBI's New York office, Diego Rodriguez, who started out as a Latino school teacher from Queens. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Diego Rodriguez is a G-Man's G-Man, but he has not exactly taken the typical career path to being the FBI's man in charge of fighting crime in its flagship office.
Rodriguez was a school teacher, teaching Spanish in the city public school system, when a friend in the FBI urged him to apply to the academy in Quantico, Va.
"That's probably why I'm here today in this position," says Rodriguez. "The bureau was looking for diversity. I fit the bill at the time and I think I owe a lot of that to my heritage."
Born in Colombia, Rodriguez grew up in Jamaica, Queens. Today, he is the head of the FBI's criminal division in the city.
After graduating from the academy in 1990, Rodriguez embarked on a career that included a stint on SWAT teams in San Juan, Puerto Rico and New York.
He also served in Washington, D.C. and Miami, and did some undercover work for the bureau. Rodriguez acknowledges that starting as a teacher is an unusual route for an FBI agent.
Rodriguez says the FBI has evolved, and that it needed to as the demographics of the country have changed. Over the years, the FBI also has faced lawsuits by some black and Hispanic agents charging bias in promotions and assignments.
"The bureau has expanded its role in trying not only to identify Hispanics but all minorities, trying to bring them into all law enforcement, not just the FBI," says Rodriguez. "There are career fairs all the time."
The FBI could not provide NY1 with statistics on the number of Hispanic agents in the bureau.
On a separate front, NY1 asked Rodriguez if he is concerned the FBI has taken too many resources away from pursuing criminal cases in the post-September 11th world.
"I think the terrorist threat is absolutely real. That is our top priority, and you need to allocate resources to your top priority," says Rodriguez.
He says he is happy to be back in the city where he grew up, doing a job he loves to do.