LOS ANGELES—A court upheld on Jan. 7 the firing of two police officers who were playing Pokémon Go instead of responding to a robbery in progress.
The Second District Court of Appeal ruled on Jan. 7 that it was justifiable for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to terminate the employment of two LAPD officers who were playing Pokémon Go while dismissing calls requesting their response to a robbery.
On April 15, 2017, a surveillance camera inside LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell’s patrol car captured the two policemen playing Pokémon Go on their phones and discussing how they could catch “Snorlax,” also known as “the Sleeping Pokémon.”
Five minutes into strategizing how to capture the Pokémon, a radio call came in reporting a robbery taking place at a Macy’s store in the Crenshaw area—close to where the officers were parked.
According to a court document (pdf), the officers were contacted twice, but Lozano allegedly said, “Screw it,” after Mitchell put the decision in Lozano’s hands. Cpt. Darnell Davenport—who was nearby and responded to the robbery—saw the two officers reverse down an alley and leave the area.
Lozano and Mitchell “demonstrated a severe negative attitude and disdain towards Captain Davenport” by withholding their location during a robbery in progress, according to the court document.
For 20 minutes, the officers could be seen in an in-car video driving to different locations where several Pokémon characters appeared on their mobile phones.
The officers did end up successfully capturing “Snorlax” and could be heard bragging about how other police officers would be “jealous,” the court document stated.
The two officers denied hearing the call from dispatch while gaming on duty, which sparked an internal investigation.
During the investigation, the officers argued the in-car video of their private conversations should have not been used as evidence.
They later admitted leaving their post to catch “Snorlax”—but not the fleeing robbers—and claimed it was part of an “extra patrol” to chase the imaginary creature, according to the court document.
Both officers were found guilty of multiple counts of misconduct, including playing Pokémon Go on duty, failing to respond to a robbery call, failing to respond to the radio when contacted, making misleading statements to supervisors, and making false statements under investigation.
LAPD’s Board of Rights said the officers’ behavior was “unprofessional and embarrassing,” and “violated the trust of the public.”
The officers asked the court to overturn their firings but were denied by a Superior Court judge. The court said the former LAPD officers’ rights had not been violated.