Mother-daughter policing duo celebrate Mother’s Day


Jessica Helmick spent much of her childhood in and around police work, so following in her mother’s footsteps came naturally.

Indeed, for the Helmicks, police work is a family affair. As they celebrate Mother’s Day, three of the four members are peace officers.

Jessica’s mom, Kathleen Helmick, an Orange County District Attorney investigator, began her career with the Secret Service. She’s a retired Anaheim police officer who also spent time with the Tustin Police Department.

Orange County District Attorney Investigator Kathleen Helmick, left, with her daughter, Tustin Police Officer Jessica Helmick, in front of the Tustin Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Dad Michael Helmick, now a private investigator, is also a retired Anaheim police officer. Continuing the family’s public service tradition, Jessica’s brother wants to be a firefighter.

“By the time I was 10, I knew I wanted to be like my parents,” recalls 24-year-old Jessica, now Tustin Police Officer Helmick. “I was a police officer for Halloween multiple times; I spent some of my childhood years running up and down the halls of the Anaheim Police Department.”

“By the time I was 19, I was a police cadet in Anaheim.”

Jessica learned from her parents that being helpful and sacrificing yourself for others is sometimes necessary.

She also learned the power of the badge: “My teachers always enjoyed Mom’s appearance every year in her uniform and with her police car. My friends thought that was the coolest.”

After graduation from Rosary High, Jessica played Division II soccer at CSU Monterey Bay, then earned her AA degree in social behavioral science at Mt. San Antonio College, finishing up with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton.

Tustin Police Officer Jessica Helmick at the Tustin Police Department.
File photo by Mike Goulding / for Behind the Badge

After serving in the Anaheim police chief’s office and as she finished her degree, Jessica worked as a detention officer for the Tustin Police Department, interacting with officers and getting to know the department; understanding dispatch, the way calls are handled, and how arrestees are processed.

“I fostered good relationships with the Tustin officers,” Jessica says. “There’s a family-oriented camaraderie at the department that reminded me of my parents’ situation when I was younger.”

“Everyone knows each other’s husbands’ and kids’ names,” she continues. “When they ask how you’re doing, they’re being genuine. They care about your personal and your work life.”

Because police officers today often face negativity, she adds, the department’s caring nature is particularly important.

“It’s good to know they have your back,” she says.

Kathleen says her daughter makes an excellent officer because she’s always been extraordinarily mature.

“She is a caring person,” she says, describing her daughter. “She’s tenacious, goal- and career-driven, thoughtful, helpful – and has a good sense of right and wrong.”

“She cares about taking care of people and making them safe,” Kathleen says.

Tustin Police Officer Jessica Helmick places a flower at the base of Tustin Police Department’s memorial statue during the annual Wally Karp Memorial Ceremony.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

For her part, Jessica says her mother is “probably the best female police officer I could learn from,” because she always strived to show her colleagues that she was willing to do whatever needed doing in order to get the job done.

“She’s someone who really, really cares about the well-being of others,” she observes. “She is the calm in the storm.”

She adds that Kathleen is smart, meticulous, and made sure she put her best foot forward with every case she worked.

“People immediately respect her and feel safe,” Jessica says. “As a family criminal detective, she made sure she did everything she could. In one case in particular, where a child was terribly abused, Mom put in hours and months on the case.”

Seven years later, Kathleen remains in touch with the victim to ensure she’s thriving.

“Everyone always tells me what a good cop she is,” Jessica notes. “They tell me, ‘I don’t know if you’ll ever be as good as your mom.’”

Master Reserve Officer Kathleen Helmick, right, after receiving her new badge, with her daughter, Jessica Helmick and Tustin Police Chief Stu Greenberg.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

She believes that her parents’ careers helped her grow and understand the world at large.

“My parents were always very honest about what they did on job,” she remembers. “They let me know what they were doing and that we’re not in the safest place at all times, reminding me to be aware of my surroundings and aware of the people I’m with, where I’m going and what I’m doing.”

Certainly, policing has changed drastically since the elder Helmicks began their careers. Today’s technology allows officers to perform many functions instantaneously that took considerable time in the past, and laws have changed, affecting who can be arrested and for what reason, Kathleen explains.

Jessica believes her parents’ varied professional responsibilities interested her at an early age.

“Mom was a detective and Dad was a sergeant in specialty detail, getting to chase higher priority cases,” she says. “He often worked undercover and could be away for days at a time.”

Anaheim Police Cadet Jessica Helmick, left, pins a Tustin Police Department Master Reserve Officer badge on her mother, Kathleen Helmick, during a ceremony.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Kathleen points out that the family has an even longer history of public service, as several grandparents and uncles served in military intelligence and police work.

“I’m happy Jessica’s dream of helping others is being realized,” she says. “You should always help others, whether it’s a lot or a little, a ride to the hospital or a ride to jail.”

“I’m proud to have raised two children who want to be in public service,” she says.

Jessica says she’s still considering the direction her future policing career will take, but knows she wants to show respect to those who’ve sacrificed their lives on the job by serving on the department’s Honor Guard. She eventually wants to work with a K9 partner.

“My mom and dad were huge inspirations for doing what I do today,” she acknowledges. “I had a strong mom with a strong nature and willingness to be an officer – nothing knocked her down or upset her.”

“Both parents were hardworking, with good morals and ethics that make me want to do this job,” she adds. “The way Mom carries herself is something I aspire to.”