Police officers have improperly cited Dallas drivers for not being able to speak English 38 times in the past three years, Chief David Kunkle said Friday.
The discovery came after a woman was pulled over earlier this month for making an illegal U-turn and was given a ticket for being a "non-English speaking driver."
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 it was a federal law that was misapplied to local drivers of private vehicles.
"I was, I guess, surprised and stunned that that would happen, particularly in the city of Dallas," he said.
Kunkle said at a news conference that at least six officers wrote the citations. He said the officers and their commanders are under investigation.
Ernestina Mondragon was pulled over Oct. 2 by Officer Gary Bromley, a rookie who was still under supervised training.
"I wanted to tell him," Mondragon told The Associated Press in Spanish on Friday. "I couldn't talk back to him out of respect."
Mondragon 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.
Besides the no-English ticket, Bromley cited Mondragon for making an illegal U-turn and failing to carry her drivers license.
"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.
Kunkle said the outcome of the other 37 no-English citations is unclear. He said his department would not give commercial drivers tickets for being unable to speak English, saying that was a job for other law enforcement agencies.