Five police officers from Merseyside Police's elite gun-crime unit have been fired after a photograph surfaced of them fooling around in a house they were raiding. The five policemen – all constables from the force's Matrix team – were sacked yesterday after a three-month internal inquiry found them guilty of "gross misconduct".
The photograph, taken on a mobile phone, showed the uniformed men in the kitchen of a suspect's home holding up everyday items, including a packet of breakfast cereal and cleaning products, while grinning and pulling faces. The photograph of them "behaving inappropriately" emerged during a professional-standards investigation set up to probe allegations that items of clothing seized in similar Matrix raids were appearing for sale on eBay.
Two senior officers within Matrix were also suspended for failing to supervise the search team properly. It is understood one has been reinstated but the second remains suspended. Three officers, including one sergeant, were suspended over those allegations last month and remain on police bail.
The Matrix unit is a specialist task force, made up of inspectors, sergeants and constables, which leads Merseyside Police's fight against drug-related gun and gang crime, which has blighted the Liverpool region.
Its members undergo a rigorous training regime, including "rope-access" abseiling, riot control and the apprehension of "cash-in-transit" robberies.
The unit played a significant role in targeting the gangs associated with the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, who was gunned down in Croxteth in 2007.
"We expect the highest standards from our officers and these officers fell far short of that expectation," the force's Deputy Chief Constable, Bernard Lawson, said. "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.
"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 per cent drop in gun crime.
"That is in no small part down to the good work of the Matrix team."
* One of Britain's top policemen and his deputy spent Wednesday night behind bars and were released on bail after their arrests as part of an investigation into misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practices. Chief Constable Sean Price and Deputy Chief Constable Derek Bonnard, both of Cleveland Police, were arrested alongside the force's former head of legal services, Caroline Llewellyn, on Wednesday.