At Least 20 Dallas Officers Gave "Non-English Speaking Driver" Tickets

DALLAS (CBS/AP) At least 20 Dallas police officers from five patrol divisions have improperly cited drivers for not being able to speak English in the past three years, according to records obtained by the Dallas Morning News.

Since 2007, 38 people, almost all Hispanic, have been ticketed for being a "non-English speaking driver," records show.

The story came to light after Ernestina Mondragon, a Dallas mother driving her daughter to school, was pulled over earlier this month for making an illegal U-turn. She was given a ticket for being a "non-English speaking driver," which is not a crime in Dallas, according to the paper.

The police chief said the citations are disappointing for Dallas, a city where the Latinos make up 44 percent of the more than 1 million residents and nearly 45 percent speak a language other than English.

Chief David Kunkle said his department's computer system for citations has a pull-down menu that includes a law requiring drivers of commercial vehicles to speak English. The chief said he believes the federal law was misapplied to local drivers of private vehicles.

At least six officers and their commanders are under investigation, and Dallas police also plan to look beyond the last three years to see if other citations turn up, Kunkle said at a news conference.

According to the Dallas Morning News: "The number of officers tied to the tickets is likely to grow because Dallas police officials say they plan to look back several more years and include the supervisors who signed off on the tickets in the investigation for possible dereliction of duty."

Mondragon told reporters Sunday that says she wants a deeper investigation and to be reimbursed for a $5,000 hospital stay.

(AP Photo/LM Otero)
Photo: Ernestina Valdez Mondragon.

The Dallas mom, who says she speaks limited English words, told reporters that she wants a bigger apology beyond the one Chief Kunkle issued for the Oct. 2 incident, according to CBS Dallas Affiliate CBS 11.

Mondragon was pulled over by Officer Gary Bromley, a rookie who was still under supervised training. She was driving her 11-year-old daughter to school when Bromley stopped her. She had forgotten her purse with her license in it while darting out the door that morning after her daughter missed the school bus.

"I felt humiliated. Sad," she said. "I wanted to cry but I couldn't. The anger wouldn't let me."

During the exchange between her and the officer, Mondragon said she used the limited English words and phrases she knows.

"He asked me if I spoke English. I said I speak a little and understand it," she said.

Mondragon said court staffers seemed puzzled by the charge. The court ultimately dismissed the "non-English" ticket and driver's license citation after Mondragon presented her license.

Mondragon was surprised to hear others had been cited and said she's glad she said something so it can stop. She and her family are considering a lawsuit.

October 26, 2009 - Dallas Cops Gave 38 Tickets for Drivers Not Speaking English, Were They Wrong?