SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A California appellate court upheld the 2017 firing of two Los Angeles Police Department officers after they ignored a robbery in favor of playing “Pokemon Go.”
As first reported by The Sacramento Bee, Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were caught on in-car recordings saying they did not want to respond to a nearby robbery at a Macy’s on April 15, 2017. Instead, they discussed how to capture a Snorlax and other rare objects in the virtual game, according to court documents.
Lozano and Mitchell say the recordings were used unfairly to fire them, but on Jan. 7 of this year, a court ruled their firing was justified.
A California Superior Court filing from Jan. 7 said another officer was responding to the robbery when he saw Lozano and Mitchell’s patrol car nearby. Their supervising officer asked twice for them to respond, only to be told “no.”
The recordings revealed the officers discussed responding to the call before Lozano was heard saying, “Ah, screw it,” per court filings. They went on to discuss various “Pokémon Go” virtual creatures nearby.
Lozano and Mitchell have argued that the conversations were private, but the LAPD said the recordings were valid, as the two were “engaged in police business.”
Tracy McClanahan, a detective, later conducted interviews with Lozano and Mitchell, who said they were merely discussing the game and not playing on the job. McClanahan did not believe them, according to court documents, and felt they had willfully failed to respond.
The officers were charged with six counts of on-duty misconduct. They also were charged with lying to McClanahan during the misconduct investigation.
The Board of Rights – a forum that hears LAPD dicipline cases – found Lozano and Mitchell guilty on all but one of the counts against them, saying their “unprofessional and embarrassing behavior” had violated the public’s trust.
Lozano and Mitchell attempted to appeal their firing, but a trial court and appellate court upheld the decision.