Sick photo that got 37 workers fired
A "completely inappropriate" class photo showing scores of trainees giving an apparent "Nazi salute" is set to end in dozens of job losses.
Earlier this month, a picture of US Corrections Academy trainees from the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class 18 with their arms raised in a salute emerged.
The photograph was accompanied by the caption "Hail Byrd!" - an alleged reference to the trainees' instructor.
The picture, which was taken at Glenville State College, has since been shared publicly by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, which has condemned the stunt and launched an investigation into the incident.
Initially, two instructors and one cadet were fired and 34 other workers - including those seen in the picture - were suspended without pay as the investigation was launched.
But West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety secretary Jeff Sandy recommended sacking everyone involved in the photo - and that recommendation has now been approved by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.
While the department has not officially revealed the exact number of people who will lose their jobs, it is believed to be at least 37.
"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 behaviour will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of state government," Governor Justice said in a statement.
"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."
The Governor previously described the incident as "intolerable to every single breathing human being within this state" during a press conference.
Before the image was released publicly, Mr Sandy also wrote a memo to all staff slamming the incident, which he condemned "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," he wrote.
"It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practised by our brave correctional employees."
In a letter sent to Mr Sandy by Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner Betsy Jividen, she claimed participation in the picture was "largely based on ignorance, along with a remarkable and appalling lack of judgment among the cadets and some members of the Academy staff".
However, according to CBS News, some trainees used the controversial gesture as a "sign of respect" for their instructor - although 10 have claimed they participated in the salute after being told to and they "feared they wouldn't be able to graduate if they disobeyed an instructor's direction".
News of the participants' harsh punishment has been widely welcomed by the public, with scores of social media users welcoming the stance.
Make public all of their names. We need to be able to track them to insure they NEVER are hired in any law enforcement capacity again, EVER. Everyone knows following orders is never acceptable for illegal/immoral conduct. Happy to see all them shit canned.— . . . - - - . . . (@Zipper_Mishap) December 31, 2019
The news comes amid a recent spike in anti-Semitic attacks in the US.
On Saturday night, a man stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.
A day earlier, 30-year-old Tiffany Harris allegedly slapped three young Jewish women in the face and yelled "F**k you, Jews!" in Brooklyn, while a string of other attacks have also been reported, bringing the tally to eight in one week in New York alone.
The spike is so significant the New York Police Department (NYPD) chief of detectives condemned the "alarming" trend, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday that the NYPD was stepping up patrols in three neighbourhoods and increasing the number of visits to places of worship.
Every once in a while, there is a ray of hope in the turbulent times we live in. The firing of the West Virginia cadets who gave the Nazi salute was well deserved. Thank you to the state officials who showed that this will not be tolerated....— Capt. Bilbo (@CaptBilboTweets) December 30, 2019
A strong and righteous stand: Zero Tolerance. Are you listening @WestPoint_USMA ? White Power signing cadets should expect similar consequences... West Virginia correctional cadets who gave Nazi salute in photo will all be fired https://t.co/O4e8xYIxS5 via @nbcnews— Dan Lott (@Danaiolos) December 30, 2019