US court upholds decision to sack two LA policemen who ignored robbery to play Pokemon Go

·2-min read
Two policemen from the Los Angeles Police Department were fired after they ignored a robbery to play Pokemon Go. — Reuters pic
Two policemen from the Los Angeles Police Department were fired after they ignored a robbery to play Pokemon Go. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — A court in Los Angeles has ruled that the police department has the right to sack two policemen who ignored a robbery in progress and instead tried to catch a Snorlax in Pokémon Go.

The former LAPD officers, Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell, had appealed against their 2017 sacking for “willfully abdicating their duty to assist a commanding officer’s response to a robbery in progress and playing a Pokémon mobile game while on duty”, Vice reported.

Quoting court documents, the portal reported that a patrol supervisor called Mitchell and Lozano to respond to an apparent robbery in progress at Macy’s in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Mall.

While other policemen left the scene of a homicide to respond to the call, Mitchell and Lozano didn’t respond to the call despite being in the area and instead backed down an alley before driving away.

Video and audio evidence showed that Mitchell and Lozano discussed responding to the robbery but decided not to.

Moments later, Mitchell and Lozano were recorded saying that a “Snorlax just popped up .. at 46th and Leimert,” and the two strategised how to best catch the rare, gigantic Pokémon.

“For approximately the next 20 minutes, [the in-car monitoring system] captured [Mitchell and Lozano] discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones,” the portal reported.

“On their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that ‘a Togetic just popped up,’” referring to another Pokémon.

Though Mitchell and Lozano did not catch the alleged robbers at Macy’s, they did catch Snorlax and Togetic.

Both men argued that they were merely catching “images” of Pokémon, not playing a “game”.

They also claimed that Pokémon Go was not a “game” but was more of a “social media event” that was not “advertised as a game,” the court records say.

Eventually, both admitted to going after the Snorlax because they wanted to “chase this mythical creature”.

Following their sacking, the duo appealed the decision by claiming that the LAPD violated their privacy by listening to their conversation.

Both men had tried to get reinstated by referencing a 1975 case in which an employee named Dr Skelly who regularly drank alcohol on the job and skipped shifts was reinstated, but the LAPD argued that playing Pokémon Go and lying about it was by far a worse infraction.

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