CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK/AP) — A photo of West Virginia corrections trainees doing a Nazi salute lead to some employees being suspended, and the governor has ordered some to be fired. The photo is the focus of a memo that state officials made public Thursday.
The letter, sent by West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy to the agency’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Wednesday, doesn’t make clear what the image shows or how many employees have been suspended. You can see the photo above.
Sandy described the photo of Basic Training Class Number 18 as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.” He wrote that the picture “betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees.”
Republican Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement Thursday condemning the photo and ordered the firing of those involved:
“I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class #18 in the strongest possible terms,” Gov. Justice said. “I have directed Secretary Jeff Sandy of the Dept. of Military Affairs and Public Safety to continue actively investigating this incident and I have ordered the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct. This will not be tolerated on my watch – within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation – or within any agency of state government.”
House Assistant Majority Leader Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette) condemned the photo in the following statement:
I am shocked beyond words at this outrageous photo,” Delegate Kessinger said. “As someone who has worked to build bridges with our local Jewish community, I know how harmful and offensive horrible displays like this can be, and my heart breaks for my friends who will be deeply affected by this.
This photo is not West Virginia; these are not our values, 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.
I hope and trust Gov. Justice and Secretary Sandy will take swift action against those responsible for this reprehensible display, and extend my personal apologies on behalf of the state of West Virginia to those offended and affected by this. We are better than this.
Sandy has ordered all copies of the picture destroyed or taken out of circulation to prevent them from spreading. He said an investigation of the incident is ongoing.
You can see a full copy of the memo below: