LatinaLista — When news filtered out last week from Dallas, Texas that a rookie police officer had ticketed a woman for not being able to speak English, most people rolled their eyes and thought this was just a case of an overzealous recruit.
Come to find out there are about 20 overzealous officers -- and they're not new recruits.
It's been discovered that since 2007, officers from five different patrol divisions, have issued tickets to 38 Latino drivers for not speaking English.
The thing is, the woman whom the rookie targeted, could speak limited English. I would bet that the other people stopped could also speak limited English but combine a lack of proficiency with nervousness for being stopped by the police -- and we're not talking undocumented here -- then anyone with limited proficiency would forget everything they knew in their new language.
In essence, these officers took it upon themselves to be the "Language Police." The Dallas Police Dept. is dismissing all the tickets, reimbursing those people who have paid the $204 fine and investigating the officers who issued the tickets and those who signed off on them.
Yet, a much more troubling question remains -- What exists within the Dallas Police dept. that a rookie and veterans would think that ticketing Spanish-speaking drivers is not just legal, but an accepted practice?
The Dallas Police Dept. doesn't have a good track record of gaining the public trust in the Latino community.
It was members of the Dallas Police in 2002 who framed and scapegoated innocent Latinos in what has become known as the "Sheetrock Scandal."
In that instance, 18 bogus cases were created by Dallas Police Drug and Narcotics officers against all Hispanic defendants, claiming that the Latinos were involved in the distribution of cocaine. It wasn't cocaine - it was ground up sheetrock packaged to look like cocaine.
Several Latinos wrongfully accused of being cocaine distributors spent months in jail, lost their jobs and businesses, and some, even their families.
Because some Dallas Police officers didn't just think Latinos were easy prey, but that they were there to be abused and terrorized at their whim.
One would have thought the lessons learned in 2002 would have stuck with this dept. but some officers seem more intent enforcing their own brand of justice against Latinos, whether or not it's legal.
Somehow, it gives new meaning to the so-called "silent code of brotherhood" we always hear about among the ranks of the police.
There is still discussion as what to do to the officers and those who signed off on the tickets -- suspend them? Fire them? Make them attend sensitivity training?
Unfortunately, none of that will do any good until there is a thorough and honest investigation -- not into who is writing the tickets -- but why there exists the mentality that it's ok to do it and nobody says anything to the contrary when they find out.
This problem is much deeper than just writing tickets. Because there was only a few officers, compared to the overall number in the force, who committed this act, it makes for a curious case as to why these particular individuals did it?
Hard questions must be asked.
Do they have an aversion to Latinos? Do they feel superior to Latinos that they don't feel they should be held accountable for mistreatment? Are they racist?
Whatever the source of the problem, it must be discovered, discussed and eradicated -- before the reason for issuing such a ticket manifests itself into another form of targeting Latinos.
Cited for not speaking English