Dorothea Fynaut: A mother’s life as a Ponchatoula Police Dispatcher

By ALLISON DAVIS

Senior Southeastern University Communication Student

Special to The Times

A community’s police department plays a crucial role in the protection and safety of its citizens. When you hear the words police department you may think of police officers and the chief, but there are other people who play an important part in the daily functions of a police department.

One of these critical roles is the radio dispatcher. The radio dispatcher handles all incoming calls to the police station, and they then inform on-duty officers of the situation at hand. Dorothea Fynaut has been a radio dispatcher for 28 years, and she has loved every minute of this fast-paced career.

Fynaut was born and raised in the northern area of California. Her parents owned an ambulance company where she began to shadow first responders and dispatches. By the age of 15 she had her first job as an ambulance dispatcher, and she worked this job for the next ten years of her life. She finally settled down in the City of Oakland, California, and started her first real career at the Oakland Police Department as a dispatcher.

The Oakland Police Department is a very complex system because of the large size of the city. Fynaut says she never had a problem learning and understanding the ins and outs of the police department.

“I always loved the fast-paced environment; I was a part of it. There is always something going on, no matter the hour. As a night shift worker, I would get calls about some rough situations, but these calls are what made me want to stay awake and alert.”

Depending on the day, Fynaut would either work the radio or the telephone in the office. She never physically went on the calls, but her role in the operation ensured that the police are aware of what is going on and the correct amount of officers are present to deal with the cases.

Her work environment is the reason she fell in love with her job. The police staff became her family, and they understand the demanding needs of the job. However, there are some negative sides to the dispatcher job. Fynaut typically has to work nights, holidays, and other important events.

As a mother of two children, she has missed a lot of milestones because of her demanding job. She has always tried to make up for the strange hours through celebrations the day before or after they are supposed to be celebrated.

Fynaut’s daughter, Calli Fynaut, said, “My mom has always done the very best she could to provide for me and my brother and making our lives feel like normal. Normal for us was celebrating Christmas on December 26 or having a birthday dinner two nights before a birthday. As an adult, I understand how much my mom cared about us enough to find that balance that works for her family at home and at work.” 

Fynaut always finds the positives in the day, and she goes into work hoping for a great day. Unfortunately, her aunt fell ill, and she had to retire from the Oakland Police Department to care for her. After her aunt passed away, she decided to move to Ponchatoula, Louisiana to spend more time with some family members.

This move was a big change for Fynaut, and once she got back into the swing of life, she realized she was missing a big part of what made life normal for her. Fynaut decided to do something about this, and was offered a position with the Ponchatoula Police Department as their dispatcher.

A past fellow dispatcher, April Todd, said, “Working with Mrs. Dot has been a great pleasure. She always comes into work ready to conquer the day. She knows how to separate her work life from her home life, and it is cool to see her tackle all of this with such grace.” Fynaut loves her job, and although there are major differences between Oakland and Ponchatoula, she continues to come into work each day ready to serve her community.

Her life so far has been filled with changes small and large. Fynaut continues to work for the Ponchatoula Police Department as their dispatcher.

“At this point in my life, I don’t have to work anymore, and I can retire. However, I love the job I am doing. The people I work with have become a family, and this has become more of a fun pasttime rather than just a job.” 

She plans to finally retire within the next few years, but for now, she is enjoying life the way it is. As a mother, grandmother, and active family member she sets the bar for balancing life and her career. The day she signs off of the radio for the last time will be a day to remember the years of service Fynaut has given her communities and her police family.