LAPD Officers Remain Fired For Playing Pokémon Go Instead of Stopping Robbery
Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were fired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2017 for playing Pokémon Go instead of doing their jobs. They spent the next five years contesting their termination, but a California appellate court ruled in 2022 that the former officers were properly fired.
On April 15, 2017, a police dash cam in their patrol car recorded Lozano and Mitchell discussing how to catch a Snorlax and trying to capture other rare Pokémon in the game. However, they ignored a report of several people who were in the process of robbing a nearby Macy’s. The officers claim they didn’t hear the radio request for backup but the recordings show the officers debating for the next 20 minutes whether to respond. Lozano eventually said “Ah screw it” before they resumed playing on their phones.
A police captain saw their patrol car nearby and responded to the distress call himself when the officers didn’t respond. Lozano and Mitchell were terminated by a police board of rights when the board unanimously ruled that the officers had committed misconduct that was “unprofessional and embarrassing.” The officers asked a court to overrun their firings by arguing that the recordings were improperly used as evidence as they violated their right to privacy.
Police Dash Cameras Are Meant to Curb Abuse
The officers incorrectly believed they could suppress the video dash cam footage of them playing Pokémon Go. However, there is no right to expectation for police officers in the dash cam video in their vehicle. That video footage will routinely be used as evidence in criminal proceedings in every kind of case from traffic stops to police brutality cases. The camera is meant to protect the officers from false accusations and to protect the public from police abuse. The camera would serve no purpose if police officers could decide what footage is private and what footage is admissible evidence.
Police Officers Are Still Employees Who Must Respond to Their Supervisors
The United States Supreme Court has famously ruled that police officers generally do not have a legal duty to aid the public. That rule still applies in this matter as the officers were not compelled to aid a private citizen. However, that does not mean that individual officers can just sit around and do nothing. The officers failed to respond to their supervisors and fellow officers requesting assistance. In fact, a police captain witnessed their insubordination and was forced to respond to the distress call himself.
Employers and employees generally have an at-will employment, meaning that either party can end the employment relationship at any time for any reason except for an illegal reason. Lozano and Mitchell were not treated any differently than any other employee who is caught playing video games while ignoring a supervisor’s assignments.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help If I Am Wrongfully Terminated?
A skilled employment law attorney can explain your rights and advise you of your best course of legal action. Additionally, they can help you file a civil suit if needed, and represent you in court as necessary.