Several West Virginia state employees have been suspended after a photo emerged depicting a training class of roughly 30 correctional officers performing a Nazi salute.
The Nazi salute was used to hail Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany dictator who directed the slaughter of millions during World War II.
State Governor Jim Justice announced in an official statement that he had decided to dismiss all the officers who had participated in the Nazi salute from the Academy’s Reform and Rehabilitation Department.
The picture was taken on the day of the officers’ graduation on November 27th.
The image, which was released by the state’s Ministry of Military Affairs and Public Safety, shows 30 officers wearing uniforms and raising their right arms to perform the “Nazi salute”, three weeks after they began training with a coach named Byrd.
The photo was taken after the officers performed the salute as a sign of “respect” for their trainer, whose name was written on a sign above them that read “HAIL BYRD!”
Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Director Jeff Sandy sent a letter to all employees describing the photo as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.”
“Seeing the photo was deeply shocking and troubling to me and I know it will be devastating to not just members of my community but any person of decency,” Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Director Jeff Sandy said. “This will create difficult days and hard conversations for our state. While I want to hear more about how it all unfolded, this terrible incident reminds me we have a lot of work to do in educating about the dangers of hate and the evils perpetrated in the past and can happen again.”
After the photo went viral, coach Byrd defended her trainees saying: "There is nothing wrong with the picture, it is just a salutation. They do it because I am tough, like Hitler."
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