LA cops get fired for ignoring a robbery so they could play Pokemon Go instead

(Image credit: Nintendo)

A California court has ruled that two officers of the Los Angeles Police Department who ignored a robbery-in-progress call so they could hunt down a Snorlax in Pokemon Go instead will be fired.

Court documents (via USA Today) indicate that the incident occurred in April 2017, when officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were on foot patrol. During their patrol, they received a call for backup to handle an active robbery with multiple suspects at a nearby mall. But instead of coming to help, they left the scene. When their sergeant asked about their failure to respond to the call, they claimed that they hadn't heard it because there was "a lot of music" and it was "really loud in the park" where they were patrolling.

The sergeant let it drop at first, but soon reconsidered—this was a more serious situation than emulating Pokemon Go on your PC, after all. He decided to take a look at the digital in-car video system, which records officers' actions while in their vehicles, and that's where things went very wrong for the Pokemon Cops: The video revealed that they were in fact parked very close to the mall when the call came in, that they not only heard the call but discussed whether or not they should answer it, and that they then radioed in to say they were at a different location to justify not responding to the call for backup.

At that point the matter was referred to a detective for further investigation, and things got even worse. The detective determined that after several minutes of ignoring calls, the officers responded to a genuinely priority incident instead: The appearance of a Snorlax in Pokemon Go. They then spent about 20 minutes driving around LA, talking about Pokemon, and pursuing the Snorlax, during which time a Togetic also appeared—and after catching the Snorlax, they agreed to get the Togetic too. 

This was apparently a tricky business: Lozano "buried it and ultra-balled" the Togetic but Mitchell struggled to capture the creature, although he was eventually able to make the bust.

"The ... guys are going to be so jealous," Mitchell said after he finally made the capture.

In follow-up interviews, both officers claimed that they weren't actually playing the game but were just talking about it. The detective investigating the case determined that they were "not being truthful."

Following the investigation, Lozano and Mitchell pleaded guilty to failing to respond to the call for backup but denied playing Pokemon Go while on duty and lying to cover it up. They admitted that they had left their assigned patrol area to chase Snorlax, but said that it was part of an "extra patrol," and not a game but a "social media event."

Their protests were for naught: Both officers were found guilty of various infractions and fired from their positions. They appealed the dismissal, however, arguing that the video evidence collected in their patrol car was not admissible and that their rights had been violated when their sergeant initially asked them about the incident without their lawyers.

The court rejected those claims, leading to the current appeal, which has now also been denied. The specifics are long and detailed, but the short version is that the court ruled the in-car video recording was admissible and properly used in the case, and that their chat with the sergeant was not a violation of their rights. Their termination has thus been upheld.

It's a funny story, as long as you don't think too much about the corrupting influence of even small amounts of power, and the abuses it engenders. What isn't funny is that it took five years—five years!—for the system to declare that yes, these clowns are in fact fired. And yet, this may not be the end of it! A lawyer representing the fired officers told the Los Angeles Times that they are "disappointed" in the ruling and "considering how to proceed."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.