Police officers fired for playing Pokémon Go on duty

California court hears how officers decided to catch a Snorlax instead of criminals

Police officers fired for playing Pokémon Go on duty

A California Court has denied the reinstatement appeal of two Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers who were under fire for ignoring a robbery call to play Pokémon Go. They said incident happened in 2017, when the pair of officers received a call for backup because a robbery in progress happening at a department store close to their area. Instead of responding, however, the two officers ignored the request and left the area.

The patrol commanding officer at the time later arranged a meeting with the pair for their lack of response over the incident, but the two officers said they failed to hear the call because of the loud noise at the area. Still suspicious, the patrol commanding officer decided to investigate further and reviewed the in-car recording system, which later revealed what the court document described as "new and disturbing facts." According to the document, the pair of officers did hear the radio call about the robbery, discussed it, and then decided not to respond to it.

A detective was later called in to further investigate the incident, who found that the pair "wilfully failed to respond to the robbery call and attempted to conceal" their act.

The detective also discovered that the two officers were playing the Pokémon Go video game on the same day - where the pair drove to "different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones." The recordings from the in-car camera revealed that they went to capture a Snorlax and a Togetic, creatures from the said game.

Read more: Press start to destress: why employees should play video games at work

The pair denied the act of playing the game while on duty, saying they were only discussing the game — claims that the detective later determined were not truthful. They were eventually charged with multiple counts of on-duty misconduct, including failing to respond to a robbery-in-progress call, making misleading statements to their patrol commanding officer, failing to respond over the radio when their unit was called, failing to handle an assigned radio call, playing Pokémon Go while on patrol, and making false statements to the detective.

"Petitioners pled 'guilty' to the first and third counts and 'not guilty' to the remaining counts," the court document read. 

Petitioners' appeal

The pair of officers later appealed to court that their conversations over the in-cam recordings were private and should not be used as evidence. "They argued the board of rights did not proceed in the manner required by law" when it allowed the in-cam recordings to be used as evident.

"Petitioners also asserted discharge was 'too harsh' a penalty under the circumstances," the document added.

The court, however, denied their petition to effectively terminate both employees.

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