Nearly 30 West Virginia correctional officers were suspended after a photo was discovered of the officers allegedly giving the Nazi salute.
The reported picture showed the alleged officers while still in training for the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. While the faces were blurred out for media, it shows the officers with one arm raised in a manner similar to the Nazi salute with text reading “Hail Byrd!”
According to the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the text was in reference to one of the class instructors. Department Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy addressed the photo in a letter addressed to all employees and reporters.
“I have seen the photo of Basic Training Class Number 18. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate. It undermines the high standards that have been set for our Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees.”
Sen. Joe Manchin issued a statement on his personal Twitter.
The department has reportedly ordered any copies of the photo circulating to be taken out of circulation, destroyed or sent to the office of Division of Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen.
The photo’s appearance also comes at a time when the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety has been under intense scrutiny for recent controversies. Some of the more notable accusations include guards sexually abusing inmates and trying to cover up wrongful deaths in the system. West Virginia State Police have also been accused of helping clear officers under investigation, settling lawsuits against officers using taxpayer money.