Police officers giving drivers $204 tickets for not speaking English? It sounds like a rejected Monty Python sketch. Except the grim reality is that it has happened at least 39 times in Dallas since January 2007, according to The Dallas Morning News. At least six officers in several different patrol divisions wrote the tickets, each time citing a driver for violating a law that does not exist. All but one of the drivers were Hispanic.The authorities say they are investigating, though one possible explanation has been offered by the police department. The officers may have been confused by their squad-car computers’ drop-down menu of infractions, which displayed a federal statute on English proficiency that applies to commercial drivers. The Dallas Police Department does not enforce that statute.
Whatever we learn, it is likely to be highly embarrassing to the Dallas authorities, who have promised to refund the fines to the drivers who have already paid up...link to complete NYT Editorial
HOUSTON — A dog’s sniff helped put Curvis Bickham in jail for eight months. Now that the case against him has been dropped, he wants to tell the world that the investigative technique that justified his arrest smells to high heaven...link to complete NYT article
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Keystone Kops in Texas
It is not fair to criticize all of Texas for the mistakes of Dallas and Fort Bend County (which is near Houston). But these two departments make their work sound like a bad movie.
The NYT has soundly criticized the Dallas Police Department for fining people who are driving and do not speak English. The Fort Bend Sheriff's Dept. charged a man with murder based on faulty evidence from a sniffing dog. The man was incarcerated for nine months before the real culprit confessed. In the meantime the guy who was innocent lost his house and his automobiles.
This is not an indictment against dogs. I love dogs, have three of them that are treated as humans. This is more a problem with the dog's handlers and their supervisors.
This type of story is not new in Texas. There is a long history of this type of misbehavior. I wrote about it in my book Cemeteries of Ambivalent Desire.