Police officers fired for ignoring robbery to play Pokémon Go denied appeal

Many people take Pokémon Go very seriously, and in some cases place the act of catching the creatures ahead of their own job. That’s never a good idea, especially if you’re a police officer. Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell understand this all too well. The pair of former LA cops were fired in 2017 for playing Niantic’s mobile game while on duty and have just had an appeal to get their jobs back denied.

In 2017, when Pokémon Go was at its peak popularity, Lozano and Mitchell were in their squad car when they received a backup request for a robbery in progress at the nearby Crenshaw Mall. But the officers ignored the call and drove to a different location.

When asked to explain their actions, Lozano and Mitchell claimed they were in a noisy area and didn’t hear the radio. But their supervisor was suspicious and decided to check the vehicle’s digital in-car video system (DICVS) dashcam. It showed that the officers had chosen to ignore the call and drive somewhere else. The reason? Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that Snorlax ‘just popped up’ at 46th and Leimert,” states court documents. The pair then spent 20 minutes discussing the best route to reach the Pokémon as they drove around.

Mitchell also alerted Lozano that “a Togetic just popped up,” on the way to the Snorlax. Lozano said he’d “buried it and ultra-balled” the Togetic before announcing, “Got him.”

When confronted with the evidence, the officers denied playing Pokémon Go, claiming they were just having a conversation. They were fired from the LAPD. The pair filed a petition arguing that using DICVS footage in the investigation violated privacy protections on private conversations between two officers. The judge said the argument was “flawed” and denied the appeal on January 7.

There were a lot of unusual stories about the game back when Pokémon Go appeared to be taking over the world: criminals exploiting it to lure victims to locations before robbing them at gunpoint, police using it to tempt fugitives out of hiding, people wandering into military bases and turning neighborhoods into nightmares, and a Russian blogger who was given a suspended prison sentence for playing it in church.