POLICE were 'unprofessional' in the aftermmath of teenager Ellis Downes' tragic death, an investigation has found.

Three police officers at Thames Valley Police will face misconduct 'meetings' after the Independent Police Complaints Commission released its report this morning.

In a statement it said it had found the officers 'have a case to answer for misconduct for their incivility and lack of professionalism during their dealings with Ellis’s family in the immediate aftermath of his disappearance.' 

Harwell 16-year-old Ellis drowned in the River Thames in Culham on May 7, 2016, after getting into trouble while swimming.

His family and friends then deemed the immediate police response 'appalling' and claimed officers lacked compassion during their search.  

Last year an inquest heard how Ellis's friends bravely tried to save him after he vanished in the cold water, where he had joined friends for a dip after enjoying a warm evening on the riverbank. 

His body was found in the water two days later, close to where he went missing near The Burycroft.

Just days later Thames Valley Police referred itself to the (IPCC), the police watchdog, following the family's complaints.

Key concerns were:

- Specialist Group International, a dive group experienced with police searches, was turned away from the water by officers after volunteering to recover Ellis' body. 

Officers reportedly only relented when Ellis' dad Darren Downes went to the riverside and demanded they let the divers in. 

Thames Valley Police does not have its own dive team and had been awaiting help from that of the Metropolitan Police. 

- A lack of emotional support or compassion shown by TVP officers

The IPCC confirmed there was a delay in allowing the dive team accesss,  which it found was due to a misunderstanding over authorisation, and has 'recommended TVP review the accreditation and use of civilian diving teams to support police searches'.

It also said TVP will 'implement improved bereavement training for frontline officers' due to the complaints about how the family were treated by CID officers.

According to the IPCC, Thames Valley Police has agreed with the finding about misconduct and the three officers - who have not yet been identified - will face 'misconduct meetings in due course'.

The meetings are not as serious as misconduct hearings. The latter are held in public and can lead to dismissal, but misconduct meetings are effectively a private sit-down chat between the officer and their superiors. 

Following the IPPC's investigation, its associate commissioner Guido Liguori said: “This was a tragic accident that has seen a family devastated by Ellis’s death and my thoughts are with them and Ellis’s friends.

“While we found the actions of those officers directing the search to be in line with police policies, we identified changes that could be made to improve how civilian dive teams are used to assist the police in such circumstances.”

The IPCC has released a statement summarising the report, but the report itself will not be made public until after the misconduct hearings.

In a statement this morning, Thames Valley Police said its assistant chief constable Nicola Ross requested an internal review of policies about water rescue and recovery.

TVP spokesman Jack Abell said: "This was done promptly and new guidance has been issued to the force.

"Additional training about such incidents has been given to officers to ensure that they are better able to use the advice they are given and make appropriate decisions.

"Control rooms now have much clearer guidance on deployments to such incidents.

"Specialist officers can give advice to those in command and ensure decision-making can be made as early as possible, including better use of equipment and services provided by partners."

He said the force had reviewed its use of family liaison officers and admitted such an officer should have been assigned to the Downes family sooner. 

TVP has now decided to contract an accredited external dive company to run such rescue and recovery missions from the water, which it said was an initiative supported by the National Police Chiefs Council. 

Shortly after TVP referred itself to the IPCC in May 2016, Nicola Ross released a video apology in which she said she was 'profoundly sorry' for the way the family was treated.

She admitted officers had lacked compassion and communication had been poor.

Ellis, who had been studying forestry and land management at Abingdon and Witney College’s Common Leys campus, had ambitions to become a farmer.

He was remembered by his two big sisters at his funeral as a 'proper country lad' who 'lived life to the fullest'.

More to follow.