LAPD officers fired for playing Pokémon Go during active robbery denied appeal – USA TODAY

January 13, 2022
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Two Los Angeles Police Department officers who were fired for playing Pokémon Go and ignoring a robbery call in 2017 have failed in their bids to regain their jobs.
Court documents published Friday reveal what led to the firing of former LAPD officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell in 2017 and their unsuccessful appeal challenging the city’s decision to fire them.
According to the appeal, Lozano and Mitchell purposefully ignored a commanding officer’s request for backup during a robbery and played Pokémon Go, a mobile game involving physically moving to different areas to “catch” Pokémon, while on duty.
The two officers were on a foot beat patrol in the LAPD’s Southwest division in April 2017. It had been a busy day, with more calls than police cars available to respond, according to the appeal.
Court documents say the division’s patrol commanding officer heard a radio call for a robbery in progress with multiple suspects at the Crenshaw Mall. The ex-police officers’ patrol supervisor, Sergeant Jose Gomez, tried to radio their unit to ask for backup at the mall but received no response.
Gomez later met with the officers, who according to the appeal, said they did not hear the radio call and were at a park with loud music.
Recordings from the officers’ digital in-car video system (DICVS) later revealed that the officers had been close to the mall during the robbery and purposefully ignored the radio call about the crime and request for backup. They put out a radio code in a different area from where they were actually located, hiding that they were near the mall and hadn’t responded to the call for help.
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“I don’t want to be his help,” Lozano allegedly told Mitchell regarding the commanding officer who requested backup. The two ex-officers ignored a second request for help when their unit was called, the appeal says.
“Aw, screw it,” Lozano said. Five minutes later, Mitchell told Lozano that “Snorlax,” a Pokémon in the mobile game, “just popped up” at “46th and Leimert.”
For the next 20 minutes, the officers were “discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones,” according to court documents.
While the two officers didn’t catch the robbers, court documents say the pair apparently captured the Snorlax, a fictional creature known as “the sleeping Pokémon.”
“Got ‘em,” Mitchell said. “Holy crap. Finally,” Mitchell exclaimed after apparently catching it, adding: “The guys are going to be so jealous.”
After managing to ensnare that Pokémon, they then agreed to “[g]o get the Togetic,” a different Pokémon, and drove off. They caught that one, too,based on their reaction from the recording.
When the officers were interviewed by Detective Tracy McClanahan, who conducted the misconduct investigation, they claimed they were only “having a conversation about Pokémon Go” and not playing it.
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During their board of rights hearing, the two officers admitted leaving their foot beat area to search for the Pokémon Snorlax, but insisted they did so as part of an “extra patrol” and to “chase this mythical creature.”
Both officers were terminated from employment with LAPD following a unanimous vote to fire them. They appealed their case, arguing the digital in-car video system recording should not have been used as evidence, and that their procedural rights were violated when their patrol supervisor questioned them without an opportunity to have a legal representative.
“Petitioners also asserted discharge was ‘too harsh’ a penalty under the circumstances,” the appeal reads.
Their appeal was denied on Jan. 7.
Follow Celina Tebor on Twitter @CelinaTebor.

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