West Virginia corrections employees fired, suspended after apparent Nazi salute photo, officials say
Three people have been fired and nearly three dozen suspended after a photo emerged showing dozens of employees from a West Virginia corrections officer trainee class appearing to give a Nazi salute, officials said Friday.
Two training instructors and one cadet were fired after the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety released the image Thursday, Secretary Jeff Sandy said.
A total of 34 other employees, including the trainees in the photo, were suspended without pay.
Multiple people have been either fired or suspended in connection with a photo that appeared to show corrections trainees giving a Nazi salute. (West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety)
The image showed more than two dozen trainees with their arms raised and faces blurred. The text “Hail Byrd” could be read above the group.
An agency spokesman said that was a reference to the trainees’ instructor. The photo was taken at Glenville State College, about 100 miles northeast of Charleston, he said.
“I cannot stress enough how this betrays the high standards and professionalism of the men and women of corrections, who successfully carry out their vital and daunting public safety mission every day and around the clock,” Sandy said, later adding that the cadets had undergone training to identify white-supremacist groups.
Sandy released a memo before the photo was made public describing the image of Basic Training Class Number 18 as “distasteful” and “completely inappropriate.”
Many elected officials, religious leaders and advocacy groups in the area have condemned the image. Gov. Jim Justice has called for all those involved to be fired.
“This is intolerable to every single breathing human being within this state,” Justice, a Republican, said at a news conference Friday.
Sandy’s memo ordered all copies of the picture destroyed or taken out of circulation. He said an ongoing investigation has included more than 50 interviews at the training academy at Glenville State and elsewhere for an investigative report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.