DES MOINES, IOWA – Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw reassigned her department’s spokeswoman Thursday, two weeks after Sgt. Lori Lavorato said it was “very possible” fights near the Iowa State Fairgrounds had racial overtones.
The move came as a part of a series of police command assignment changes announced to officers by e-mail Thursday, the details of which have not been made public.
Bradshaw, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, raised concerns about statements Lavorato made after a series of fights outside the fairgrounds last month.
A supplemental report about the Aug. 20 incident filed by Sgt. Dave Murillo said, “On-duty officers at the fairgrounds advise there was a group of 30 to 40 individuals roaming the fairgrounds openly calling it ‘beat whitey night.’ “
While answering questions from the news media three days later, Lavorato said, “It’s all under investigation, but it’s very possible it has racial overtones.”
Police commanders later said they found no credible evidence the fights were racially motivated.
“I had some real concerns with us making that leap and making a remark like that publicly,” Bradshaw told The Des Moines Register in an Aug. 26 interview. “That’s a huge statement that, quite frankly, can provoke emotions on both sides of the issue.
“People are very sensitive to remarks like that, so I had some real grave concerns about us stepping out and I wanted to make certain that we were right to message the State Fair events that way.”
On Thursday, Des Moines police administrators did not return phone calls from the Register seeking comment and did not release a full list of administrative changes at the department. Bradshaw was out of the office and did not return a call to her cell phone. Messages left for Assistant Chiefs James O’Donnell and David Lillard also were not returned.
Lavorato, 36, a police public information officer since May 2009, will work in the department’s traffic unit. Sgt. Jeff Edwards, 40, will transfer from the traffic unit to replace Lavorato effective Sept. 13.
Lavorato confirmed her new assignment, but declined to say whether the move was voluntary.
“For reasons I cannot disclose, I am being transferred,” she said. “There is a series of transfers going on and I am one of the people being moved. I enjoyed being (the public information officer), working with the media and the public and it’s a job I’m going to miss.”
Lavorato said her pay was not affected by the move, but she will lose her take-home unmarked police vehicle and extra compensation she received for being on call seven days a week.
Edwards served as a fill-in for Lavorato during her tenure. He is a 19-year veteran and has been a sergeant since 1999.
A 1988 graduate of Southeast Polk High School, Edwards followed his father, Larry Edwards, into police work. His work credits include time in patrol, robbery/homicide, fraud, narcotics, motor vehicle thefts and the Neighborhood Based Service Delivery unit.
A graduate of Upper Iowa University, Edwards is studying for a master’s degree in public administration at Drake University. He is married with two teenage children.