- Associated Press - Friday, December 6, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Three people have been fired and 34 suspended after a photo surfaced of a West Virginia corrections officer trainee class giving what appears to be the Nazi salute, officials said Friday.

West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said two training instructors and one cadet were fired after the agency released the image Thursday. Thirty-four other employees, including the trainees in the photo, have been suspended without pay.

The image shows more than two dozen trainees with their arms raised and faces blurred. It also includes a line of text above the group reading “Hail Byrd.” An agency spokesman said that was a reference to the trainees’ instructor. The spokesman said the photo was made at Glenville State College.

“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 on identifying white supremacist groups.

Sandy released a memo before the photo was made public describing the image of Basic Training Class Number 18 as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.”

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 press 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 image has been widely condemned by elected officials, religious leaders and advocacy groups.

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