Aaron Appelhans is going from student to making history in Wyoming as he becomes the first Black sheriff in the state’s history. Appelhans says he used to look at the photos of past graduating classes from the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy hanging on the wall and wanted to change the perception of law enforcement in his community.
Appelhans was appointed sheriff, a post he took months after fury over the deaths of Black people at police hands throughout U.S. cities. As sheriff of Albany County, his jurisdiction includes one of Wyoming’s last heavily Democratic districts, but the state is heavily made up of conservative whites and he’s already faced a racist remark from a lawmaker.
Appelhans says he grew up around both racism and relatives who were in law enforcement. Appelhans is now the top law enforcement officer for Albany County, which is three times the size of Rhode Island, yet has just 650 African Americans out of 39,000 people. He says he is hopeful that he can change interactions between the public and police in Wyoming.