November 18, 2021
President Biden Welcomes Widow and Young Sons of Late Officer to White House Bill Signing
Credit: People, Greta Bjorson
President Joe Biden was sure to be joined by some meaningful guests at a series of bill signings on Thursday morning.
Biden, 78, welcomed the widow and two young sons of police officer Thomas Bomba to the White House while he signed legislation intended to protect law enforcement.
Angela Bomba and her boys, Tommy and Jake, were in attendance during the ceremony as Biden signed into law three bills: the Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021, the Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act and the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act.
Before he sat down to sign the bills, Biden told the crowd of about 40 attendees, “By the way, there’s a tradition when you sign the bill, you give the signing pen to the authors of the bill. But I don’t have that many pens with me.”
“I’m going to make sure everyone will get a pen,” Biden added. As he settled in to sign the papers in front of him, he took a moment to speak to Jake, standing next to him onstage.
“Hi, what’s your name?” the president asked in footage shared by local station WSLS. As he leaned over to shake the boy’s hand, he told Jake, “Nice to meet you,” and asked, “how old are you?”
After learning Jake’s age (7) and grade (first), Biden thanked the boy for being at the bill signing and checked in to make sure he was okay. He later gifted Jake the pen he used to sign the legislation.
Jake’s father, who worked as a Montgomery County police officer, died by suicide in 2019, according to Baltimore station WJZ. About 10 years before his death, Thomas had contracted a flesh-eating bacteria during a training exercise, an infection which almost killed him.
In May 2020, Reps. David Trone and Guy Reschenthaler proposed the COPS Counseling Act in response to Thomas’ death, according to Montgomery Community Media.
“By providing confidentiality for peer support services like we do in the COPS Counseling Act, we can begin to remove the stigma that exists surrounding mental health,” Trone said in a statement at the time.
Speaking at Thursday’s bill signing, Biden said Thomas’ “painful experience helped inspire this bill,” later adding: “My hope is by giving more officers access to confidentiality and high-quality mental health resources we’re going to reduce the stigma around seeking help and lead [to] better policing and prevent suicides.”
The COPS Counseling Act “prohibits Federal law enforcement officers from disclosing the contents of peer support communications; and requires the Department of Justice to develop a report on best practices and professional standards for peer support counseling programs for first responder agencies,” the White House says.