For the first time in the 130-year history, Wyoming has a Black sheriff. Aaron Appelhans 39, has taken charge of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which faces two pending lawsuits and calls for reform in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Robert “Robbie” Ramirez by a deputy in 2018.”You don’t see a whole lot of African Americans in law enforcement,” Appelhans told CNN. “So, I’m trying to overcome that roadblock of taking a non-traditional career path and affect change within my community.”Wyoming is known as the “Equality State” because it was the first in the country to grant women the right to vote and hold office in 1869.While the state has a history of opening doors, Appelhans said, it still has a long way to go before it lives up to the motto.
Sheriff previously worked for the university police
Appelhans, a Denver, Colorado, native, graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2003. He was a member of the Association of Black Student Leaders, which he said provided educational and social opportunities for other minority students on campus.The small group of students established a commemorative event around Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to bring more awareness to the civil rights icon and Black history. Their efforts laid the groundwork for many of the activities the university now does in celebration of Black History Month, according to Appelhans.In 2009, Appelhans was recruited to be a crime prevention specialist for the university’s police department. He later moved into a detective role as well, which he held for five years before becoming a patrol sergeant.The university’s police chief, Mike Samp, recalled that Appelhans was “truly involved on campus and with the broader community” as a campus officer. In his role as a crime prevention specialist, he focused on sexual assault cases and working with victims of sexual assault.”When you’re in middle management,” Appelhans said, “some of the changes that you want to institute come to some kind of roadblock where you just can’t get it done and you can’t find the people to help you get it done.”The ability to influence real change is one of the main reasons he wanted to become a sheriff, Appelhans said.