from the but-can't-even-catch-a-case dept
Sometimes you can’t always get what you want. In this case — argued in front of a California court — you can’t even get what you need.
Ex-officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell wanted their jobs back. They used to be cops working for the Los Angeles Police Department. On the way to a call about a robbery in progress, the officers — ostensibly “running towards the sound of gunfire” — found something far more compelling than the job they were hired to do.
The opinion [PDF] — highlighted by Jake White on Twitter to the amusement of thousands — is a blast to read. The headline and the opening hijacking of the Rolling Stones makes it clear where this is headed. But even if the destination is clear, you’ll still enjoy the ride.
Here’s what the cops should have been doing, as recounted by the court:
It was a “busy” Saturday in the Southwest Division— there were more calls than police cars available to respond and there had been a homicide earlier in the day. While en route to the homicide scene, Captain Davenport heard a radio call for “a 211 [robbery] in progress” with multiple suspects at the Macy’s in the Crenshaw Mall. When the call came in, the Captain could see the Macy’s from where he was stopped, and to his right he noticed a police car tucked back in an alley just feet away. He was not able to identify the unit, and when the unit did not respond to the radio call, the Captain assumed it might be a traffic unit or a unit from a different division using a different radio frequency. Consequently, Captain Davenport decided he would respond to the call and notified communications he was going “Code 6 on the call”—i.e., responding to the location of the robbery. At around the same time, the Captain saw the police car start to back up down the alley, then negotiate a left-hand turn to leave the area.
The two officers trying to recover their jobs also claimed to be going “Code 6” on the same call. This seemed peculiar to Sergeant Gomez, who asked the officers if they were headed to assist Captain Davenport. He received only a cryptic “no” in response to his question. He tried to follow up on the officers’ failure to follow up on this robbery call, asking to meet them at a nearby 7-11 store where the officers were (and now we’ll use the word “allegedly”) engaged in an illegal merchandise investigation.
At that point, the officers claimed it was hectic and noisy and that they had heard no call for backup. They said “it was really loud in the park, especially on a Saturday.” Sgt. Gomez reminded them radio calls could be the difference between life and death. The officers agreed and said they’d try not to hang out in noisy areas in the future if possible.
Unfortunately for the lying officers, their actions had been captured by their dash-cam. The DICVS (digital in-car video system) showed the officers were otherwise occupied during the time their presence was needed at the Crenshaw Mall.
First, they blew off being part of the thin blue line:
The DICVS recording disclosed that, immediately after Captain Davenport’s Code 6 broadcast, Officer Lozano asked Officer Mitchell if they were Code 6 on the Crenshaw Corridor or on the corner near the mall where they were parked. Mitchell responded they were “[a]t the corner” and noted the broadcast radio call was “Davenport.” Lozano then instructed Mitchell to put them Code 6 “at the corridor,” adding (after some laughter) regarding Captain Davenport, “I don’t want to be his help.” Petitioners’ unit then moved backwards through the alley and turned away from the mall, as Captain Davenport had observed.
For the next several minutes the DICVS captured continued radio traffic regarding the robbery and pursuit of multiple suspects. After communications made a second attempt to contact petitioners, Officer Lozano asked if they should “ask [communications] if there’s a message.” Officer Mitchell replied, “It’s up to you. Whatever you think. I don’t want them to think we’re not paying attention to the radio.” Lozano responded, “Aw, screw it.” Petitioners made no attempt to respond over the radio when their unit was called.
Then they went hunting for something apparently far more worthy of their time, attention, and tax dollars than the reported robbery.
After carefully listening to the DICVS recording a number of times, Detective McClanahan also became concerned that petitioners were playing “the Pokémon Go video game” while on duty the day of the robbery. The recording showed that, at approximately 6:09 p.m. (just five minutes after Officer Lozano said “screw it” to checking in with communications about the robbery call), Officer Mitchell alerted Lozano that “Snorlax” “just popped up” at “46th and Leimert.” After noting that “Leimert doesn’t go all the way to 46th,” Lozano responded, “Oh, you [know] what I can do? I’ll [go] down 11th and swing up on Crenshaw. I know that way I can get to it.” Mitchell suggested a different route, then told Lozano, “We got four minutes.”
That’s the response to an officer in need of backup: “screw it.” Also, “I don’t want to be his help.” Also, “Snorlax.”
And so much for “four minutes.” The hunt for Snorlax continued for much longer than this original estimate. The hunt was on and no amount of law enforcement responsibility was going to stand between these officers and their quest to catch ’em all.*
* “All” may not include criminal suspects.
For approximately the next 20 minutes, the DICVS captured petitioners discussing Pokémon as they drove to different locations where the virtual creatures apparently appeared on their mobile phones. On their way to the Snorlax location, Officer Mitchell alerted Officer Lozano that “a Togetic just popped up,” noting it was “[o]n Crenshaw, just South of 50th.” After Mitchell apparently caught the Snorlax— exclaiming, “Got ‘em”—petitioners agreed to “[g]o get the Togetic” and drove off.
When their car stopped again, the DICVS recorded Mitchell saying, “Don’t run away. Don’t run away,” while Lozano described how he “buried it and ultra-balled” the Togetic before announcing, “Got him.” Mitchell advised he was “[s]till trying to catch it,” adding, “Holy crap, man. This thing is fighting the crap out of me.” Eventually Mitchell exclaimed, “Holy Crap. Finally,” apparently in reference to capturing the Togetic, and he remarked, “The guys are going to be so jealous.” Petitioners then agreed to return to the 7-Eleven (where Sergeant Gomez later met them) to end their watch. On the way, Mitchell remarked, “I got you a new Pokémon today, dude.”
Clearly not your everyday disciplinary hearing subject matter, as can be ascertained by this perhaps unintentionally comical footnote:
According to evidence admitted at the board of rights hearing, “Snorlax” is a Pokémon creature known as “the Sleeping Pokémon.”
Truly a shame Niantic wasn’t called in to testify about the relative rarity of Snorlax and/or the tactics necessary to subdue this infinite good made artificially rare by outside time and location constraints. On the other hand, we have the officers’ testimony about why the pursuit of an infinite good was more important than the pursuit of a much rarer, far more finite (public) good: a robbery suspect. While it’s presumably far less entertaining than an app developer attempting to explain why people with badges might be compelled to hunt large Pokemon rather than criminals, it’s still instructive as to the testimony default mode when cops are caught fucking up:
Petitioners… denied playing Pokémon Go while on duty. They claimed they were monitoring a “Pokémon tracker” application on their phone, but not playing the game itself. As for “catching” Pokémon, Officer Lozano insisted this referred to “capturing [an] image” of the Pokémon on the tracking application to share with friends, while Officer Mitchell said his statements about “fighting” the Togetic referred to “relaying that information to the groups on my app,” adding that, “in order to take the picture, occasionally, the creature will fight.” Lozano said they were not engaged in a game; rather, it was a “social media event.” Mitchell said he did not consider the application a game because it was not “advertised as a game.” Petitioners admitted leaving their foot beat area in search of Snorlax, but they insisted they did so “both” as part of an “extra patrol” and to “chase this mythical creature.”
As if that somehow makes things better. It’s such a terrible lie it can’t even elevate the officers’ actions about “wasting tax dollars” or “possibly endangering a fellow officer.” The officers apparently hoped that capturing screenshots of Pokemon was somehow a better use of their time than “hunting” Pokemon.
The courts — including the trial court, the police internal hearings, and the California appeals court — agree: this is some bullshit. You may not have your jobs back, former officers Lozano and Mitchell.
The judgment is affirmed. The City and the Chief of Police are entitled to costs, if any.
Great news, ex-cops! You are free to waste all the time you want from now on. The public, however, will not be paying for your non-police-related activities. You truly have caught them all, by which I mean “yourselves” with the unexpected superball powers of your in-car cameras. Perhaps the private sector will be more willing to put up with your desire to get paid for doing stuff completely unrelated to your employment, but I doubt it. The public sector is the most forgiving employer, what with its institutional resistance to accountability and transparency, and you somehow managed to reach the end of its patience. If the world seems particularly anti-cop at the moment, just wait until you see how it treats ex-cops.