The photo of Basic Training Class 18, released by the state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety on Dec. 5 with the employees’ faces blurred, shows about 30 uniformed trainees posing with their right arms raised, most of them with their hands also extended. The words “Hail Byrd!” also appear at the top of the image.
Three people — two academy trainers and a cadet — were fired days after the photo was released and 34 others suspended without pay amid the investigation by the department and its Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
According to the investigation summary, the use of the gesture began two to three weeks into training as one that the cadets have described as a “sign of respect” for an individual identified as “Instructor Byrd.”
Byrd told investigators she was unaware of the “historical or racial implications of the gesture” and reported it was “simply a greeting,” according to the report. But her statement was contradicted by multiple sources, the report released Monday says.
“The investigation disclosed that she encouraged it, reveled in it, and at times reciprocated the gesture,” the report states. “Additionally, Byrd appeared to overrule the corrective actions taken by others and assured the cadets the behavior was acceptable.”