Chief William J. Bratton has fired Los Angeles Police Officer Kelly Chrisman for using department computers to look up confidential law enforcement data on scores of celebrities.
"The message is clear," Lt. Art Miller, an LAPD spokesman, said Wednesday after The Times learned of Bratton's action last week. "If officers break the law, they'll be dealt with severely."
Chrisman said during misconduct hearings that he was assigned to map locations of celebrity homes to alert beat officers about stalkers and other problems. LAPD officials denied such a project existed.
Gary Casselman, Chrisman's attorney, said the chief's decision was politically motivated. "They didn't want the embarrassment of admitting this project existed," he said. "It does not appear the process was fair and balanced."
According to the LAPD investigation, Chrisman called up files on Sharon Stone, Kobe Bryant, Courteney Cox Arquette, Sean Penn, O.J. Simpson, Meg Ryan, Drew Barrymore and others in the entertainment and sports fields.
An attorney who represented Chrisman during misconduct hearings, Gary Ingemunson, plans to file court action within three months, challenging the firing. "It will take that long to get all the documents from the Police Department," he said.
Paperwork signed by Bratton on Oct. 27 to notify Chrisman of his immediate termination concluded disciplinary proceedings that began in early 2000. That was when detectives investigating a domestic violence report had learned from Chrisman's former girlfriend that he was looking up celebrities on police computers.
Chrisman was never criminally charged with domestic violence, but the incident sparked a probe of his on- and off-duty activities. A three-member disciplinary board found him guilty Oct. 17 of misusing police computers and recommended dismissal.
LAPD investigators said they do not know what Chrisman did with the confidential information he accessed from 1994 to 2000. But a lawsuit against the LAPD filed by the former girlfriend, Cyndy Truhan, said he sold the information to gossip tabloids and used the computerized data to stalk her. The Los Angeles City Council settled the suit last March for nearly $400,000. Truhan, a former television talk show host, is the ex-wife of baseball player Steve Garvey.
LAPD computers are linked to state and federal databases that store criminal histories, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, physical descriptions, driving histories, vehicle ownership, restraining orders, unlisted phone numbers and other information not readily available to the public. Laws prohibit calling up the files except for authorized law enforcement purposes.
The FBI, the U.S. attorney's office and the Los Angeles County district attorney are conducting lengthy probes to determine whether Chrisman or others can be criminally prosecuted, law enforcement officials said.