Court Decides LAPD Officers Who Played Pokémon Go on the Job Are Officially out of Work

A California court denied an appeal on Monday from two former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers who were fired in 2017 for ignoring an ongoing robbery to play the mobile game Pokémon Go.

Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were terminated from the LAPD after court documents showed that they failed to respond to an active robbery at the Crenshaw Mall in western Los Angeles. The pair appealed the decision, but the termination was upheld by the court.

In court filings released this past Friday, the appeals court found that the pair were "guilty on multiple counts of misconduct" after their police car's in-vehicle dash-cam recording system captured them "willfully abdicating their duty to assist a commanding officer's response" in order to play the game. The court also found that evidence showed that the two officers were "disingenuous and deceitful in their remarks" to superiors.

Lozano and Mitchell argued that the in-vehicle recording system was used improperly by the city in a disciplinary manner, and that Los Angeles officials used private conversations obtained by the recording system to justify the termination. The pair then filed a motion to get their jobs back, to no avail, however.

Pokemon Go LA
Two former LAPD officers had their appeal of termination denied by a California court after evidence was presented that proved the pair had been playing Pokémon Go during a 2017 robbery call instead of responding to the crime. Here, a person can be seen playing Pokémon Go in 2016 on Hollywood Boulevard near the Hollywood Walk of Fame. PG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty

The incident in question occurred on April 15, 2017, according to court documents. Lozano and Mitchell were out on their patrol on a busy Saturday, with more emergency calls coming in than available police cars, according to the court report.

The pair's commanding officer reportedly heard a call come across the radio for a robbery-in-progress at the mall and radioed in for Lozano and Mitchell to respond to the crime. However, the pair ignored the call, and when their commanding officer questioned them about the incident later, Lozano and Mitchell stated that they had been in a "loud area" and did not hear the radio call because of loud music playing in a park.

The two also reportedly told investigators that a commanding officer had never called in for backup in the first place, although this was later proven to be untrue.

Despite Lozano and Mitchell's claims, when the LAPD reviewed the in-vehicle recording system the next day, police officials uncovered video that showed the pair had indeed heard the robbery call, but had ignored it to play Pokémon Go, despite being only a "short distance from the mall."

"Screw it," Lozano is reportedly heard saying, soon after the robbery call comes through. Mitchell then reportedly tells Lozano that "Snorlax [a rare Pokémon] just popped up at 46th and Leimert."

The pair then reportedly discussed different routes that they could take in order to get to the area with the Snorlax, and the pair were heard discussing different aspects of the game for "approximately the next 20 minutes."

Both Lozano and Mitchell are then heard playing through different aspects of the game, according to court documents. At the end, Mitchell tells Lozano that "I got you a new Pokémon today, dude."

The incident occurred at a time when the Pokémon Go craze was sweeping across the world.

Released in 2016, the mobile app allowed users to "track" and "catch" virtual creatures, known as Pokémon, in real-world environments using GPS locating and AR technology. Though its popularity has waned in the last few years, the game at its height had grossed over $6 billion in revenue and over one billion global downloads.

However, controversy arose surrounding the game, partially because of issues like the LAPD incident, and also due to its use of gameplay in sensitive sites such as cemeteries and war memorials.

Newsweek has reached out to the LAPD for comment.