A FATHER fears 'unprofessional' police officers who dealt with his son's drowning will escape punishment with a 'slap on the wrist'.

Three Thames Valley Police officers will face misconduct meetings over their handling of Ellis Downes's death, after a watchdog deemed their treatment of his distressed family 'incivil'.

Harwell 16-year-old Ellis vanished in the River Thames in Culham on May 7, 2016, after struggling in the cold water.

His body was found by specialist divers two days later but Ellis's family hit out at police for delaying the team's operation, and lacking compassion during the search.

A long-awaited investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) yesterday concluded three CID officers should consequently be disciplined.

They will have misconduct meetings, which are lesser than misconduct hearings and are unlikely not lead to serious action.

Ellis's dad Darren Downes said he hoped the force learnt a 'valuable lesson', but added: "It seems they are just going to be talked to and get a bit of a slap on the wrist.

"It will all be brushed under the carpet, that's the feeling I'm getting. It seems they're not particularly bothered."

The IPCC said: "They [the three officers] have a case to answer for misconduct for their incivility and lack of professionalism during their dealings with Ellis's family."

Its full report will not be released until the end of the misconduct proceedings, which Mr Downes understands will take place in mid September.

The 45-year-old said the tragedy's aftermath 'keeps rumbling on', making it tough to move forward.

He said: "It's taken almost 16 months to get to this point. It's getting stupid, it's been a horrendous amount of time."

Ellis, who also left behind mum Emma and big sisters Alex and Tayla, had been enjoying a warm evening with friends near The Burycroft when he went for a swim.

An inquest last year heard friends jumped in after he disappeared beneath the surface.

The teenager had been studying forestry and land management at Abingdon and Witney College and hoped to become a farmer.

Decorator Mr Downes said: "He was a great kid, full of life. Nobody had a bad word to say about him, he was a lovely lad."

The IPCC's associate commissioner Guido Liguori said: "This was a tragic accident that has seen a family devastated.

"We found the actions of those officers directing the search to be in line with police policies [but] identified changes that could be made."

It recommended improving bereavement training for frontline officers, which TVP said it has implemented. The force admitted yesterday it had not assigned a liaison officer quickly enough.

TVP has also issued new guidance to officers about water rescues after the IPCC noted a delay in authorising divers to begin a search.

Mr Downes reportedly had to threaten to jump in himself before officers, who were awaiting the Metropolitan Police's dive team, allowed access.

He said: "There was a sense that police were doing nothing; they were almost like bystanders. We basically got the job done ourselves to find Ellis. We just wanted him to be recovered.

"Any person on the street could've dealt with this better - they didn't have a clue what they were doing."

He was please that TVP, whose own dive team was cut in 2014, is now negotiating a contract with Surrey-based SGI to ensure a better response to future water searches.