"We must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again," West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement

By Benjamin VanHoose
December 31, 2019 07:36 PM
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West Virginia prison cadets fired over Nazi salute
Credit: WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AFFAIRS

More than 30 people are set to be fired after a class of corrections officers in training were pictured displaying a Nazi-like salute together.

On Monday, Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement voicing his approval for the recommended disciplinary actions following the investigation by the state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

The photograph shows members of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class 18 gathered together under the text “Hail Byrd!” each with one hand raised in unison.

Aside from the nearly 30 people shown in the photo, several other employees will be fired or suspended for not reporting the controversial picture.

“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class 18 in the strongest possible terms,” Justice said in the statement. “I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences — terminations and dismissals.

He added: “This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of State government.”

“We have a lot of good people in our Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety,” the governor continued. “But this incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”​

DMAPS secretary Jeff Sandy suggested the terminations to the governor, noting in documents released amid the investigation that those involved “failed to maintain the high level of professionalism demanded by your administration.”

Acknowledging several of the cadets’ claims that they were following orders to participate out of fear of retaliation, Sandy said joining in the display still damaged the department’s reputation.

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“… Their conduct, without question, has also resulted in the far-reaching and harmful perceptions that are the antithesis of the values we strive to attain,” Sandy wrote in a memo to Justice. “The inevitable consequence of the conduct has not only damaged the reputation of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation but also negatively impacts morale across the workforce.”

Sandy added: “The citizens of West Virginia should be proud of the transparency exercised in the handling of this unfortunate event and how the Commissioner and Inspector General have worked to bring this matter to a quick conclusion.”