Police officers in Dallas, TX have issued at least 39 citations to drivers in the last three years for the non-existent infraction of not speaking English.
Police Chief David Kunkle has apologized publicly to the city's Spanish-speaking community. "I was stunned that this would happen," Kunkle stated. "In my world, you would never tell someone not to speak Spanish."
All pending citations will be dismissed, fines will be returned, and the offices involved will be investigated for dereliction of duty.
The practice came to light in early October when Officer Gary Bromley, a rookie cop undergoing training, stopped Ernestina Mondragon for making an improper U-turn and then ticketed her for not speaking English. The woman was so upset that her family wound up taking her to the emergency room.
""I felt humiliated," Mondragon told the Associated Press in Spanish. "I wanted to cry but I couldn't. The anger wouldn't let me."
Mondragon's daughter Brenda explained to WFAA-TV News, "At first I thought it was a joke. We moved from California two years ago, so I thought maybe it's a law here.
After Mondragon went to court to challenge the ticket, the police reviewed their records and found 38 similar tickets written by six different officers.
Dallas requires taxi drivers to be able to communicate in English, and a similar federal statute applies to commercial drivers, but there is no such requirement for private citizens. Chief Kunkle suggested that the misunderstanding might have arisen when the federal statute was mentioned in instructions for a new electronic citation system.
According to WFAA, "Brenda Mondragon said her mother is still learning English. She added that she believes Officer Bromley -- who is still in training -- clearly needs more of it. "