Police Officers Fired for Playing Pokemon Go Instead of Responding to Robbery

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An appellate court in California has upheld the LAPD’s firing of two police officers who failed to respond to a robbery in progress. Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were fired in 2017 for misconduct after ignoring their squad car’s radio plea for backup and deciding to play the mobile game Pokémon Go instead.

The LAPD fired the two officers after a police captain arrived on the scene and saw their patrol car parked nearby instead of responding to the robbery in progress. Mitchell and Lozano claimed they didn’t hear the radio, but audio recordings from inside their patrol car indicate that they blatantly ignored the request for backup. Lozano can be heard saying, “Ah, screw it,” when the dispatcher’s request breaks over the radio.

The Incident

Lozano and Mitchell were on patrol together on April 15, 2017. The pair had a combined 28 years on the job as police officers. Their digital in-car video system captured the men talking about the difficulty of catching Pokémon as they drove around town to locations indicated on their smartphones.

The DICVS recording indicates that Lozano and Mitchell ignored a call for backup at a Crenshaw-area Macy’s. According to police reports, several people committed a robbery at the department store and officers on the scene requested backup.

The two officers continued driving around and discussing the mobile game even after hearing the radio call. After apparently capturing the rare Togetic creature, Mitchell can be heard on the DICVS recording saying “The guys are going to be so jealous.”

Firing and Investigation

Lozano and Mitchell returned to a 7-Eleven gas station to end their watch after ignoring the call for backup. There, they reported to Sergeant Gomez, according to court documents. Later, a police board of rights suggested that the LAPD fire the men, finding their conduct “unprofessional and embarrassing.”

The board also commented that the men violated the public’s trust. Notably, the LAPD receives an annual budget of $1.97 billion every year.

Lozano and Mitchell sued the LAPD over their firing, alleging that the recording from their squad car was taken out of context. The petitioners argued that they were discussing the game, not playing it. Further, they argued that they didn’t hear the request for backup. A superior court judge denied the former officers’ petition. Om Tuesday, a Sacramento appellate court upheld the judge’s decision.