Photography: Photos by Jacy
Lieutenant Lori Flaten didn’t really plan on having a career in law enforcement. But here she is, 40 years later, finding herself in a career she still enjoys as the longest serving employee in the Mandan Police Department.
“I didn’t really seek it out, but it sure seemed normal to me,” explains Lori. “My father was a game warden. My uncle was a sheriff. I was around law enforcement all the time.”
So, at the tender age of 19, Lori, a graduate of Mandan High School, armed with an associate’s degree from Bismarck State College, started her career as a dispatcher.
“I thought I’d give that a try, but after a year, I knew I wanted to move on,” she says.
And move she did.
Lori’s 40-year career path moved from dispatch into stints with both the patrol and investigations divisions, areas that seem to fit her thoughtful, personable, and service-minded demeanor. She is currently a supervisor in the patrol division. She feels her years of experience provide a wealth of information and background for her to do the administrative work of supervising 10 officers and providing them what they need to do their job well. Lori is also responsible for all the approval processes for Mandan’s many special events.
“I really didn’t ever stop to think that this was a man’s field or a woman’s field. I was really supported and encouraged by Chief Hugo Ternes when I first started. That meant—and still means—a lot to me,” says Lori.
She’s seen the law enforcement field change in the smallest and simplest of ways.
“Like the duty gear, our clothing. You couldn’t find duty gear for women. It’s a good thing I have small feet. When I first started, I bought children’s boots and dyed them black,” she says, laughing. “You just bought men’s duty gear and tailored it. No big deal.”
But what about the biggest change for her field in 40 years?
“Without a doubt, it’s the technology,” says Lori. “It’s amazing. Our cars have computers so information is right there. You can do things so much faster and get back on the street. Even the protective gear is so much more advanced now. We never had vests, and I remember that we used to get pretty excited to get new portable radios. There have been so many improvements. We have so much more now to protect ourselves and protect the public, and it’s just so helpful.”
Every profession has its scratchy parts, the things that just get under one’s skin; and the same holds true for Lori’s career choice.
“I have zero tolerance for people who are mean to kids or animals.”
Lori’s soft heartedness for furry ones is evident in the many hours of service and “I just thought I’d stop in” support for the Central Dakota Humane Society.
Lori’s career has provided her with vivid and inerasable memories.
“I remember when a baby died in a fire. There were three children that died, but I remember the baby the most. I remember the mother sitting in my car. I had to tell her there was not going to be a rescue, and that her children were gone. And that was over 20 years ago.”
Those tragedies are balanced with many, many feel good moments for Lori.
“You’d think it might be when there is an arrest or a citation issued, but it’s not. It’s when you can help an older person, or talk to a little kid when they’re scared, to be there for a family in trouble. Those situations are always nice,” she explains.
Fast forward to today, and Lori says the most recent examples of kindness and appreciation will stay with her for a very long time.
“The support we received from the community during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests was unbelievable. Sure,” says Lori with a smile, “we received boxes of donuts. People brought water and food because they just wanted to say ‘thank you.’ But the words of encouragement made us feel so good. I’ve never seen anything to that extent. People just can’t imagine how that support made us feel in such a rotten situation. It just reinforced why we’re here, why I’m here, because all I ever wanted to do was a good job.”
Click here to see more photos of Lt. Flaten by Photos by Jacy.
Paula Redmann is the Community Relations Manager for Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. She likes to run, walk, play, sing, putter in her yard, laugh with family and friends, and count her blessings. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Tom. They have two grown sons, Alex and Max.