Investigation officer Gary Hales has worked for Bedfordshire Police in Luton CID for 12 years. He supported the case against Westleigh Brimble and Andrew Sinclair who were jailed for a combined total of 19 years after admitting three knife-point robberies.
I’m very black and white in some ways.
We all know the line, what’s OK and what’s not OK. If you choose to cross that line, you should know that the police will come after you.
It really is all about choices. I mean, crumbs, I came from a council estate that’s probably rougher than anywhere Brimble’s ever lived.
I came from what people like to call a ‘broken home’ as well, but that didn’t turn me into a criminal.
You make those choices as an adult, or even as a child, but some people will continue to make the wrong choices and carry on down that path.
I was born and bred in Bedfordshire. I’ve always lived here and I’ll probably die here. I joined the police because it was an opportunity to affect the place I live in, for good not bad. A way to give something back.
I raise my children here, so I’ll do anything I can to make the streets safer. The longer I can put a dangerous person in prison, the fewer victims there’ll be in the county.
Living here does mean I occasionally bump into someone I’ve put away. The other day I ran into a guy I’d help lock up for drug-dealing, but I saw him with his partner and kids and spoke to him about how he’s turned his life around.
He knew that I respected his new role, and he’d always respected mine. Only very rarely do people hold grudges against us, because they realise we’re just doing our jobs.
The most frustrating part is, with some people like Brimble and Sinclair, they don’t take the avenues available to them to change.
Drugs fuel a lot of the work we do as police, and unfortunately for them it seems to be more beneficial to get out of prison and back on drugs than to take the opportunities to live a better life.
They’re a toxic mix, the pair of them.
When that buzzer goes in custody I change completely.
Before the buzzer, I’ve got a short amount of time to try and engage with people. The only moments I get are the short walk between the cell and the interview room.
Until the tape goes on you’ve got a few minutes to have a bit of banter, talk about the football, the weather, if they’ve had something to eat.
It’s the time to show them that you’re human and there’s a human side to what we do.
But when the tape’s on it’s a formal process – and my role is to put the horrendous crimes they’re accused of committing to them.
I think 24 Hours in Police Custody has been a great thing for the force. You obviously don’t like it when they film you eating something and of course it shows that we have a bit of ‘gallows humour’ at times, but we are human beings with families just doing our jobs. Like everybody else.
We all have our roles. People like Brimble and Sinclair have chosen theirs, we have chosen ours, and occasionally life puts us against each other for that short period of time.
Gary and this case feature in the Black Balaclava – part of the new series of 24 Hours in Police Custody aired on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday 19 April.