Wyoming’s first Black sheriff: ‘Here to keep the peace’
Aaron Appelhans has been appointed the first Black sheriff in Wyoming, and he says he is hoping to rebuild the relationship between the community and the police force as the county for which he will serve, Albany, deals with the aftermath of a controversial police shooting.
Appelhans was appointed to be the sheriff of Albany County, where there is still unrest after a deputy shot an unarmed, mentally ill man two years ago, The Associated Press reported. Appelhans has not commented on the shooting.
The incident during a traffic stop sparked backlash that continued into racial protests last summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Appelhans says he wants to rebuild the trust of the community.
“We’ve got ‘cops’ as a nickname,” Appelhans said. “We’re not ‘cops.’ I’m listed, just like every other deputy here is listed, as a peace officer. We’re here to keep the peace. And so that’s really kind of one of the big changes I’ve wanted to have law enforcement focus on.”
Controversy quickly followed the announcement of Appelhans to the post.
A Wyoming state representative in December responded to Appelhans’s appointment to the position by sharing a scene from “Blazing Saddles,” a movie in which a Black sheriff for an all-white town asks, “Where the white women at?”
The representative apologized for his response, and Appelhans said he “knew that would come with the territory of getting this job,” according to The Associated Press.
“I don’t look like everybody else, I don’t think like everybody else. Some people are going to have some problems with that, just based on the way I look. That’s a problem in America,” Appelhans said.
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