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Five armed police sacked over photo

Five police officers from a force's elite gun crime unit have been sacked after a photograph emerged of them "behaving inappropriately" inside a house they were supposed to be searching.

Merseyside Police today confirmed that the five officers were dismissed from the force, without notice, having been found guilty of gross misconduct.

Police said all five constables worked within the Matrix team and were found guilty of gross misconduct after the image came to light during a professional standards investigation earlier in the year.

The mobile phone photograph, published in the Liverpool Echo today, appears to show officers "fooling around" during a raid on a suspect's home.

The investigation has already seen one sergeant from the team get the sack.

Deputy Chief Constable Bernard Lawson said: "We expect the highest standards from our officers and these officers fell far short of that expectation.

"Our residents and communities have the right to expect our officers to act professionally and with integrity at all times so that they can have confidence in the work that we do."

There are also allegations that items seized during search operations later appeared on the internet auction site eBay.

The sergeant who was sacked in May and two constables remain on police bail in relation to the eBay probe.

Mr Lawson said: "As a force we believe it is important to take swift and decisive action when officers are found to have fallen short of the standards we expect and in this case we have done just that.

"We are proud that over the past three years we have seen such significant falls in crime within Merseyside, particularly the 26% drop in gun crime.

"That is in no small part down to the good work of the Matrix team. They do a difficult and demanding job but we are quite clear: high standards are non-negotiable."

He added: "The overwhelming majority of Matrix officers are a credit to our force and we are very proud to have them work for us.

"I am disappointed that the actions of this small minority of officers has had a disproportionate impact on public confidence and our community relations.

"I hope, by taking the action we have, that our communities can be confident in our commitment to high standards of conduct and our continuing determination to fight crime in Merseyside."

Matrix leads Merseyside Police's fight against drug-related gun and gang crime, which has blighted the Liverpool region.

The unit played a significant role in targeting the gangs associated with the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, gunned down in Croxteth in August 2007.