Police Officers Lose Jobs for Chasing Snorlax in Pokémon GO

Here’s your reminder that you should always take your job seriously and stay off your phone when you’re clocked in.

Gamers that know a thing or two about Snorlax know the loveable snoozing monster is one of the most difficult monsters to hunt and capture in the Pokémon GO mobile game.

Two police officers in California were released from their duties when it was discovered that they were playing Pokémon GO while on the job. The true offense in this instance was that the officers were busy chasing down a Snorlax when they should have been chasing a robbery suspect.

Image: © Niantic, Nintendo, The Pokémon Company

Officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were caught on their digital in-car video system ignoring a call for officers to respond to a robbery in progress. The pair would later petition the court to appeal their termination from the Los Angeles Police Department.

The above-mentioned recording was reviewed by the officers’ supervisor, Sergeant Jose Gomez, who then initiated an investigation for misconduct. Gomez, who had been monitoring the situation from a watch commander’s office, radioed the car and asked the officers inside to respond to assist the captain. He received no response. Radioing them again, he later said, he received a short reply: “‘No,’ and that was it.” Mitchell and Lozano would deny the allegations at first, but the investigating officer, Detective Tracy McClanahan, believed they were playing “the Pokémon GO video game” the day of the robbery.

The recording “showed that at approximately 6:09 PM, Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that ‘Snorlax just popped up’ at 46th and Leimert,” according to court documents. The documents also described how the officers were “discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones.” Also mentioned in the documents was a description that “on their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that ‘a Togetic just popped up,’ noting it was ‘on Crenshaw, just south of 50th.’ After Mitchell apparently caught the Snorlax the duo agreed to ‘go get the Togetic’ and drove off.”

Both officers were charged with six counts of on-duty misconduct. In their attempts to fight a department panel’s decision to fire them, Mitchell and Lozano acknowledged they left their beat area to chase down the Snorlax, but called it an “extra patrol.” They continued to claim that they hadn’t actively been hunting Pokémon, but rather taking pictures and relaying information on Pokémon in the area to friends. Mitchell complained that he had never considered Pokémon GO to be a game, as it wasn’t “advertised as a game.”

The pair appealed the decision to fire them, arguing that the video evidence of the pair shirking the call and driving away to “chase this mythical creature” was inadmissible, as it was made up of “private conversations.” On this past Friday, an appellate court affirmed their termination, calling Lozano and Mitchell’s behavior “egregious misconduct.”

Law enforcement has previously worried over traffic problems and crime caused by the game’s users, as players began frequently wandering onto private property in their quests to catch the app’s elusive digital monsters. Mitchell and Lozano may be the first police officers ever that anyone has heard being fired over “criminal or egregious misconduct” related to Pokémon GO. Following the decision to fire them, the pair called the ruling “too harsh.” They characterized their behavior as nothing more than a “lack” of good judgment.

Are you a Pokémon GO player? Do you play video games while on duty for your job? How do you feel the Los Angeles Police Department should have handled this matter? Share your thoughts on this story with us in our Discord or Facebook group!

Source: The Gamer, The Daily Beast

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