Red-faced Dallas police chief David Kunkle has apologised to the local Hispanic community after it was revealed that his officers had fined 38 drivers for the novel offence of having an inadequate command of the English language.
Among those who fell foul of the language police was 48-year-old Ernestina Valdez Mondragón, pulled on 2 October for making an illegal U-turn. Rookie cop Gary Bromley slapped her with a fine for the manoeuvre and not carrying her driving licence, and then topped it off by handing her a ticket for "not speaking English".
Mondragón, orginally from Mexico but resident in the US for 30 years, told the Houston Chronicle (in Spanish): "He asked me if I knew English. I told him I only speak a little, and he understood."
She added: "I felt humiliated, sad."
It was later revelealed that around a half-dozen officers had fined mainly Hispanics for the same deficiency. Kunkle said: "We don't have abilities to determine proficiency in any language, and we shouldn't be doing it in the first place. I apologize to the Spanish-speaking Hispanic community."
He concluded: "Any citations that were paid, we're going to reimburse the people who paid the citation."
The Houston Chronicle notes that "latinos" make up 44 per cent of Dallas's million-plus inhabitants, of which 45 per cent speak a language other than English. ®