LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — As a student at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, Aaron Appelhans used to look at the photos of past graduating classes hanging on the wall.
“I got to see, for the most part, ain’t a whole lot of people that looked like me around here,” he recalled of the mainly white faces.
A decade later, Appelhans was appointed Wyoming’s first Black sheriff, a post he took months after fury over racist policing roiled U.S. cities. His turf includes one of Wyoming’s last Democratic strongholds, but the state is overwhelmingly conservative and white and he’s already faced a racist remark from a lawmaker.
It didn’t surprise him. Wyoming has made progress but remains “very racist,” said Stephen Latham, president of the state NAACP.
Like other parts of the country struggling with police violence, a deputy’s fatal shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill man played a major role in Appelhans’ appointment to Albany County sheriff. The death of 39-year-old Robbie Ramirez during a traffic stop two years ago stoked fierce backlash that carried over into last summer’s protests over racial injustice and police brutality.
The group Albany County for Proper Policing formed after the shooting and pushed for Appelhans to take over when …read more