The new graduating class of West Virginia correctional cadets strategically photoed posing with one arm up – a known Nazi-related gesture and salutation – are all set to be fired, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice recently announced.
In a recent statement released on Monday, Governor Justice condemned the training group’s behavior, according to CNN.
Justice stated, “We have a lot of good people in the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. But this incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this happens ever again.”
The governor condemned the training group’s behavior in a statement on Monday.
The now-viral image, which hit the internet back in early December, shows members of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class 18 uniformly posing with one arm raised, with the words, ‘HAIL BYRD,’ seen above the cadets. According to the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, ‘HAIL BYRD,’ is a reference to Class 18’s training instructor.
The Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety released the image to the public, blurring out the faces of the trainees and employees. Following the photo’s release, the department underwent an investigation, and a number of employees were suspended. Along with the suspension, Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, Jeff Sandy, recommended to Gov. Justice that the cadets be fired.
In Sandy’s letter to the governor, he noted that some of the cadets, “were aware of the connotations associated with the gesture, that they were uncomfortable with the practice … and/or that they only followed what they perceived to be an order” because they feared they wouldn’t graduate, according to CNN.
Sandy wrote, “Nonetheless, their conduct, without question, has also resulted in the far-reaching and harmful perceptions that are the antithesis of the values we strain to attain.”
Along with the pending release of the cadets, three staff members at the training academy are also slated for termination, and four instructors who failed to report the problematic picture will be suspended without pay.