West Virginia Department Of Public Safety

Correctional Officer Trainees Suspended After Nazi Salute Photo Goes Viral

A group of correctional officer trainees from West Virginia have come under heavy scrutiny after posing while performing a Nazi salute.

A recent photo captured at West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation has gone viral.

Unsplash | Tyler Rutherford

However, it has gone viral for all of the wrong reasons as it shows an entire class of trainee correctional officers performing a nazi salute as they come to the end of their training.

Above the image, there is also text which read, "Hail Byrd!"

The faces of those involved have been blurred out.

Facebook | Shomari Stone NBC

Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety claimed that the text refers to an instructor on the course, according to CNN.

The image has been widely condemned by government officials.

The image has been described as "completely inappropriate" by officials.

Jeff S. Sandy

Cabinet secretary for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, Jeff S. Sandy, was enraged by the image. In a letter published by CNN, Mr. Sandy explained how it betrayed the profession as a whole:

"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."

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice pushed Mr. Sandy for an investigation into the photo.

Facebook | Governor Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice released a statement regarding the image, according to the Daily Mail, claiming that he "condemned it in the strongest possible terms", and advising Sandy to proceed with an investigation into the image.

Justice also said that everyone involved in the photo should be fired.

The investigation was carried out swiftly by the department.


Following a series of interviews, Sandy revealed to WCHS, that the students had just finished training on how to stop gang activity, white supremacy, and terrorist groups.

Justice has called for more than 30 officers to be fired.

So far, 3 employees have been terminated.

Unsplash | Larry Farr

According to The New York Times, only 3 staff members of the correctional facility have been fired. However, there have apparently been 34 staff suspended without pay as well.

Community leaders have also come out to condemn the photograph.

Twitter | victor urecki

Charleston Rabbi Victor Urecki (pictured above) explained that he had found the image "shocking" and "hurtful". However, he also explained that he "recognized it can't possibly be what West Virginians are all about."

In response to people saying that the officers had simply been joking, Rabbi Urecki explained:

"I don't know the hearts and minds of everyone, obviously. If it was done out of ignorance and stupidity, perhaps it is a chance for a teachable moment. If it's hateful, and we're seeing the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, hatred of others, then it's a disturbing trend that we need to, we need to address in a hurry because this country cannot afford to have things like that happen," he told WCHS.

The physical copies of the image have been destroyed.

Unsplash | David von Diemar

The original photograph was not only taken to celebrate the trainees finishing their course, but physical copies were also printed out and placed inside the graduation package of each graduating officer.

All of the originals have been destroyed now, in order to, "keep its harm from spreading," according to Sandy.

Hopefully, the correction facility will be able to learn from this, and move forward.

Unsplash | Tom Blackout

With the help of community leaders, the department will hopefully be able to alter the training program, and potentially add other programs which will help to avoid such hateful acts happening again in the future.

h/t: CNN & WCHS