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Montana’s investment in a new missing persons specialist is already paying off.

After just two months on the job, Misty LaPlant has been able to shrink the number of people in Montana’s missing persons clearinghouse from 179 to 148, a reduction of 17%.

LaPlant was able to remove many of the names simply by following up with law enforcement agencies and Child and Family Services. Ten names were removed after she found that several juveniles who were reported as missing had already been found.

LaPlant is also working to update the clearinghouse website (https://app.doj.mt.gov/enforcement/missingpersons/), educate people about the process of reporting missing people, and build relationships with families, law enforcement, child protective services and other agencies throughout the state.

This is a position Montana desperately needed, and we’re grateful that the Montana Legislature saw fit to fund it. 

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It has been difficult to witness a former Helena police officer’s recent fall from grace, but we trust that he is now on the road to redemption.

Former officer Tyler Wood served as a role model for countless young people as the school resource officer at Helena High School before he left the police department amid allegations that he used Helena Police Protective Association funds for personal purchases. He was later charged and convicted of felony theft and was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison, with all of that time suspended as long as he complies with the conditions imposed by the court.

To his credit, the nine-year veteran of the police force took responsibility for his actions by apologizing to his family, his friends and the community for violating their trust. He also paid restitution to the labor union, relinquished his police certification and said he would like to eventually become an advocate for law enforcement officers dealing with post-traumatic stress to help prevent others from making the same mistakes.

However, Wood will always have to live with the consequences of his poor choices, even if he is able to successfully petition for dismissal of the felony conviction.

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Apprenticeships can be a great launching point for a long and rewarding career, and Tri-County Mechanical and Electrical makes several of them available around Montana.

The Helena-based company offers five-year apprenticeships in electrical engineering and plumbing, as well as a four-year apprenticeship in sheet metal engineering. The business currently has 24 apprentices in Helena, Butte, Havre, Bozeman, Great Falls and Wyoming.

Apprenticeships train new practitioners through a combination of on-the-job training and classroom studies. They help employers fill in-demand jobs and give inexperienced workers a way to earn a living and learn job skills without racking up much debt.

Tri-County Mechanical and Electrical received the state’s inaugural Montana Apprenticeship Employer of the Year award this week, and we want to thank the local business for its dedication to Montana's workforce and economy.

This is the opinion of the Independent Record editorial board. 

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