Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle said this afternoon that his officers have written at least 39 citations to people over the past three years for not speaking English.
Apologizing publicly to the city's Spanish-speaking community, the chief said all officers and supervisors involved will be investigated for dereliction of duty. All pending citations will be dismissed, and people who paid fines will be reimbursed.Dallas officer tickets mom for not speaking English October 23rd, 2009
"I was stunned that this would happen," Kunkle said at a news conference.
The police chief added: "In my world, you would never tell someone not to speak Spanish."
The bogus citations – there is no law requiring Dallas residents to speak English – came to light after it was revealed that a rookie officer, Gary Bromley, had issued a citation on Oct. 2 to Ernestina Mondragon for being a non-English-speaking driver.
Bromley had stopped the 48-year-old woman for making an improper U-turn in the 500 block of Easton Road, near East Northwest Highway, according to the citation.
Police officials at first dismissed Bromley's action as the foolish error of an inexperienced cop.
"That's a charge that does not exist here in the city of Dallas," said Sgt. Warren Mitchell, a department spokesman.
"Although we believe it was a sincere mistake ... there's no excuse for it."
He said that charge and a charge of failure to present a driver's license were dropped.
In all, about Dallas police write about 400,000 citations a year, department officials said.
Bromley, at 33 years old, is a trainee officer in the Northeast Patrol division. His trainer on the date the ticket was issued was Senior Cpl. Daniel Larkin, 53, said Deputy Chief Tom Lawrence, Northeast Patrol commander.
Under the Dallas City Code, taxi drivers must be able to communicate in English. Mitchell said there is also a federal statute that says commercial drivers must speak English, but that it would not have applied in this case.
Mondragon's daughter Brenda Mondragon said her mother was rushing to take her younger sister to school that day and did not see the "no U-turn" sign. Records show Ernestina Mondragon has a driver's license, but her daughter said she had forgotten it. She said her mother, a native Spanish speaker, speaks limited English.
"She was very mad; she was very upset," Mondragon said of her mother's reaction. "We ended up taking her to the [emergency room] because she was nervous; she was just stressing over the ticket."