On Monday, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) approved recommendations from the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to fire 30 corrections cadets and staffers over a photo wherein the Nazi salute was given by all participating members.
According to an investigation into the matter, female instructor Byrd, whose first name is not disclosed, told cadets to give the salute. The photo was taken multiple times until all members complied. The instructor then reportedly had the caption “Hail Byrd” added to the top of the photo and bragged that she’s a “hard-ass like Hitler.”
— The Hill (@thehill) December 30, 2019
“I have reviewed the factual information regarding this incident that was provided by Secretary Sandy, and have approved all of his recommendations,” said Gov. Justice in a statement. “I expressed my thanks to him and the entire Department for quickly getting this report done.”
“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class 18 in the strongest possible terms. I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences – terminations and dismissals. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of State government,” the statement continued.
“We have a lot of good people in our Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. But this incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,” concluded Gov. Justice, who switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2017.
Earlier in the month, DMAPS Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy recommended all the cadets in the photo be fired.
“I am further recommending the termination of all cadets participating in the open-handed salute and the closed fist salute in the class photograph,” Secretary Sandy said.
The secretary noted that some cadets “only followed what they perceived to be an order from Instructor Byrd to do the ‘Hail Byrd’ for the photograph because they feared they would not graduate, or would be disciplined for failure to follow the order of a superior.”
“Nonetheless, their conduct, without question, has also resulted in the far-reaching and harmful perceptions that are the antithesis of the values we strive to attain,” he said. “The inevitable consequence of the conduct has not only damaged the reputation of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, but also negatively impacts morale across the workforce.”
As noted by The Hill, the report into the matter claimed Byrd “encouraged” and “reveled” in the salute “and at times reciprocated the gesture,” adding that “Byrd appeared to overrule the corrective actions taken by others and assured the cadets the behavior was acceptable.”
“The photo was reportedly taken multiple times because not everyone participated until Byrd instructed them to do so, and some cadets made a fist instead of the salute in an attempt to appease the instructor,” according to The Hill. “Byrd gave the photo to secretarial staff as part of regular procedure and told them to caption it ‘Hail Byrd,’ adding, ‘That’s why they do that because I’m a hard-a** like Hitler.'”