A serving South Wales Police officer has spoken of her pride at being assigned her late father’s force number – saying it is like having him with her on duty.
Tributes poured in for well-loved Mark Dicks after he died suddenly at the age of 53 in January. He had spent almost three decades in the police, initially in South Wales before transferring to Gwent in 1996.
His daughter Jemma, 25, fulfilled a childhood ambition by following her father into serving with the police, and the duo used to joke about having the same force number – he in Gwent and she in South Wales.
Following the tragedy, in which Mark died after falling ill while racing motorbikes around a track in South Yorkshire, Jemma decided to ask whether that would be feasible.
Such requests are usually not possible, but South Wales Police made an exception in Jemma’s case.
It has meant that, since May 1, Jemma has been PC 1115, having had Mark’s Gwent force number assigned to her. She says she is “chuffed to bits” with the honour.
Jemma joined Gwent Police as a special constable in 2013 at the age of 21, and was based close to her father, who served in the force’s roads policing unit and as a force driving instructor. As well as being her inspiration to join the police, he was now also her colleague and mentor.
She moved to South Wales Police and became a full-time officer almost a year ago – on May 31, 2016 – and serves as a constable in Eastern BCU, based at Cathays Police Station.
After former Merthyr, Ebbw Vale and South Wales Police rugby player Mark’s tragic passing, Jemma enquired about turning what she and her father had previously joked about into reality.
“My dad passed away earlier this year. He worked in Gwent Police as a traffic officer, and his collar number was 1115,” Jemma explained.
“Seeing as I followed my dad’s footsteps into the police force, I just thought it was worth asking if there was any chance of having his collar number reallocated to myself.
“We always joked about having the same number, and so in the circumstances I thought it would be worth asking.”
Chief Superintendent Belinda Davies, commander of Eastern BCU, supported Jemma’s request, but initially she was informed that it might not be possible.
“I didn’t think HR would be able to do it,” admitted Jemma, from Merthyr Tydfil.
“I was told it would be unlikely, but to leave it with them. Three weeks later, I had a phone call to say that there was no news – but that no news could be good news. Then I was told at the start of April that it had been agreed.
“I was chuffed to bits. It’s not something that might mean much to many people but it means so much to me.
“One day I was 5891 and the next day I was 1115. It does feel like my dad is with me, in a sense. What has happened is never going to go away, but this does help.
“My mother has never been in the police, but she understands just how much it means to me to have this collar number.”
Jemma added: “I’ve now been able to change from 5891 to 1115, and hopefully follow in his footsteps all the way through my career.
“I’m completely chuffed. It just feels amazing, to be honest, to be able to wear his collar number on my shoulder.
“I wear it with pride, knowing how well he did with his job, and hopefully I’ll go on to do exactly the same as him.”
Jemma added that, because of her father’s influence, she has never had eyes on any way of life other than joining the police.
“Since I was really little he came home with all these stories,” she explained.
“I have never thought about doing anything else. Everything has always revolved around the police.”
It was also the thought of her father that helped her when she returned to work following his passing.
“I wanted to come back to work straight away, because I know that’s what my dad would have wanted,” she said.
“It was what pushed me into coming back to work, knowing how proud he was of me working for the police.”
Jemma has also thanked her BCU commander, Chief Supt Davies, for her support.
“She rang me on the first day I was off and sent me a few texts to see how I was, and was just really supportive,” Jemma explained.
“I really want to thank her, and HR, for what has been done.”
Chief Superintendent Belinda Davies said: “Being a police officer really is a vocation, not just a job. Jemma is a promising young officer who is very worthy of her father’s collar number.
“Mark was a popular police officer, a real professional who led by example, so I am encouraged to know that Jemma is following in his footsteps and continuing the proud family tradition.