As her mother pinned a brand new deputy chief badge onto her Mandan Police uniform Lori Flaten thought about her father, Mardell Flaten, and how proud he would have been to witness the moment. 

On Nov. 15 she was sworn in as the first female deputy chief of the Mandan Police Department.

Flaten, who has worn the Mandan Police Department uniform proudly for 40 years, came from a family involved in law enforcement. "My father was a police officer and then a game warden, my uncle was a sheriff," Flaten said. 

Flaten began her career as a dispatcher for the MPD in 1977. She recalls having only one coworker and even though they were both new to their positions they quickly put together an effective system.

After a little over a year Flaten said she grew antsy and the chief at the time, Hugo Ternes, encouraged her to apply to become a police officer. 

"I give Hugo a lot of credit because back in 1977-78, women in law enforcement weren't that common," Flaten said. 

At age 20 Flaten was hired as a patrol officer in July 1978 and she recalls there being one other woman, Joann Koch, on the force who also was a patrol officer. She added that most women were hired to handle non-patrol tasks in the department. 

“When I first started, people were like, 'Oh you're too little to be a cop, how can you do this? You can't beat up some big person,'" Flaten, who stands 5 feet 2 inches, said during an interview at the Morton Mandan Law Enforcement Center.

She added that most of the time she didn't go hands-on but could handle herself when she needed to. "You can take care of most things by talking and women are good at talking," Flaten said. 

Flaten, who was involved in breaking up bar fights in her earlier years of police work, says officers run toward situations others may run away from. "That's how we are." 

As the years passed Flaten realized the calls they would respond to had evolved from bar fights to more violent crime such as shootings or stabbings. "That's the biggest thing that stands out that I've been around long enough to see that," said Flaten.

She said investigations always have been a keen interest for her and she remembers her first big case involving a woman who ran a day care in Mandan who had been sexually and physically abusing children in her care for years. 

In 1985 Flaten was promoted to a sergeant role and in 1995 she became a lieutenant. She was the only woman  to hold those positions until April Bowman was promoted to lieutenant in November.

The Mandan Police Department has four female officers. 

Bowman said Flaten always makes sure the women in the department are taken care of, even when it comes down to ordering gear and making sure that it also would fit a woman. 

"She's extremely smart, she knows what she's doing and I think that's really going to benefit the department," Bowman said. 

In 2009 Flaten took a supervisor position in investigations until late 2015, when Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler reorganized the department and placed Flaten over one of two patrol platoons. 

"It's very important to have quality leadership, and when somebody like Lori works her way up through the chain of command it's always an exciting time to see people like Lori make it to where she's at now," said Ziegler.

As a new deputy chief, Flaten looks forward to continuing to interact with  the community through events and programs. "We really want to do more to give back and to keep that closeness," she said. 

Reach Tyana Johnson at 701-250-8250 or editor@mandan-news.com.

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