- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2019

West Virginia state employees have been fired over a photograph showing several members of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) making an apparent Nazi salute.

Three people have been terminated and 34 remain suspended without pay as a result of an ongoing investigation into the photo, Jeff Sandy, the cabinet secretary for the West Virginia state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said in a statement Friday.

Mr. Sandy announced on Wednesday that an investigation was being launched over a “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate” photograph showing members of a recent DCR basic training class. The state subsequently released an edited version of the photo that showed roughly 30 people in uniform making Nazi-like gestures.

Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said Thursday that he condemned the photo “in the strongest possible terms” and wanted anyone involved to be fired.

“This will not be tolerated on my watch – within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation – or within any agency of state government,” said the governor.

Investigators have conducted more than 50 interviews so far as part of the probe, Mr. Sandy said Friday.

The three people fired include two correctional academy trainers and one of the cadets who appeared in the photo, said Mr. Sandy. The remaining trainees in the photo remain suspended without pay, he said.

“We are committed to a full and complete investigation that we will present to Governor Justice and to the public once it is finished,” said Mr. Sandy. “As terrible as this incident has been, it is critically important that we go by the book to arrive at the whole truth of what occurred and why.”

Rabbi Victor Urecki of the B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston said on Twitter that he and others were briefed about the photograph prior to its release.

“While we all need to get more clarity on how it all happened, this awful incident reminds me that we have a lot of work to do in educating people about the dangers of hate. It can happen again,” he tweeted.

Several other West Virginia officials from either side of the aisle have separately spoken out against the photo.

“At best, this is an extreme lack of judgment for people who have a lot of power over other people’s lives,” said West Virginia state Delegate Mike Pushkin, Kanawha Democrat, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. “At worst, it’s just blatant anti-Semitism, and it’s disgusting.”

“This photo is not West Virginia; these are not our values,” added Delegate Kayla Kessinger, Fayette Republican. “And to both the local Jewish community, and the world audience that will unfortunately now see this, let me be clear: We condemn this ignorant, hateful display in the strongest terms possible.”

The individuals in the photo are pictured beneath the phrase “HAIL BYRD!” A spokesperson for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety said it referred to a training instructor for the class, local media outlets reported.

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