01/15/2008

Minn. officer dies after one week on job

By Tim Harlow
Minneapolis Star Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul Police officers are wearing black bands on their badges today as they mourn the loss of one of their comrades who they got to work with for only one week.

Joseph Plant began his career as a cop last Monday as a patrol officer on St. Paul's East Side. On Saturday it came to a sudden and mysterious end. Plant was not on duty when he became ill and died at a local hospital. Authorities on Monday afternoon were still not sure what caused his untimely death.

Plant was in shape, physically fit, lifted weights and was looking forward to his next marathon. And he was looking forward to working as a cop, he wrote on his MySpace page.

Plant, 24, had just completed the police department's training academy in which he graduated at the top of his class of 45 students, and had only a couple of shifts to live out his dream of being a police officer, said Sgt. Joshua Lego, who led Plant's training academy class.

"He wanted to be a boots on the ground officer," said Lego. From growing up as a kid, "he had a desire to be a police officer and he realized that they (the cops) were his mentors and heroes."

Lego praised Plant for his dedication to service, and for the encouragement he gave to his fellow classmates he studied with during the three-month academy that ended Dec. 20. Plant had planned on volunteering with the department's Explorers program for teens, the same program in which he developed his interest in becoming a cop.

Lego said Plant distinguished himself as one of the department's bright young prospects through his behavior, classroom skills, firearms accuracy and judgment when determining whether or not to apply force.

Lego said Plant's field training officer, Mark Ross, said Plant was "a quick study and eager to learn" and that his job of training Plant "was going to be easy."

Members of Plant's academy class gathered together on Saturday to remember their classmate. Officers throughout the department are wearing black bands on their badges in honor of an always-smiling Plant, who received his degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State University in 2006, and a career cut way too short.

"What we miss the most is to watch this officer grow into a veteran police officer," Lego said. "It's tragic we won't get to see that."

Services for Plant have not been set yet.

Copyright 2008 The Minneapolis Star Tribune

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