Five officers from Merseyside Police’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.

The force 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, 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.

Matrix leads Merseyside Police’s fight against drug-related gun and gang crime, having played a major role in targeting the gangs associated with the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, shot in Croxteth in August 2007.