After Newtown, Darien Police committee evaluates school security

Officers James Palmieri, student resource officer, and T.J. Whyte during a recent visit to Darien High School. (Courtesy of the Darien Police Department)

How safe are our children?

In the wake of the school shooting at Newtown, that’s the thought that crosses many parents’ minds when sending them to school.

With that in mind, a committee of Darien Police officers has been established to evaluate and possibly implement changes in school security in Darien’s public and private schools.

According to Darien Police’s public information officer, Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, the Darien Police Department’s response was immediate after a gunman shot six adults and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14. The Darien Police Department implemented the following school security procedures after the Newtown incident:

• An officer was assigned to every public school at the opening and dismissal.

• Increased patrols of school grounds.

• Officers were assigned to conduct a “park, walk and talk” in the office area of every public school daily.

The school security committee is made up of representatives from the patrol division, the emergency response team (S.W.A.T.), the school resource officer, youth division, training division and administration.

In addition to Marron, members include Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello, Capt. Gary Pavia, Lt. Ray Osborne, Sgt. John Lawlor, Lt. Bill Duignan, Det. Sam Boccuzzi, Det. Mark Cappelli, and Officer James Palmieri, the student resource officer assigned to Darien High School.

“We have been working with the Board of Education, superintendent of schools, and facility managers and have held preliminary meetings with schools to speak with the faculty and explain our mission,” Marron said.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Falcone told The Darien Times the school administration has “worked in cooperation with the police department and will continue to work with them to refine the security practices in the school buildings across the district.”

The school district is currently going through budget discussions, and a recent discussion of school security measures, including security monitors at school buildings, was moved to executive session for safety reasons.

“We plan on conducting lock-down drills, with faculty only, and have them complete a survey documenting their observations and recommendations,” Marron said.

Currently, the process has been completed with 80% of Darien Public Schools and the remaining schools have been scheduled over the next week.

“After completing these drills and reviewing the teacher surveys, we will make our suggestions and then schedule drills on a regular basis that would also involve the students,” Marron said.

According to Marron, a list of goals that the committee has identified are as follows:

• Schedule a facility inspection of every public and private school and make recommendations.

• Review the current lockdown/lockout/evacuation/bomb threat/suspicious package procedures and make recommendations.

• Assist schools in scheduling two to three lock-down drills per year.

• Implement a program where two officers will be assigned to each school as liaison officers. This officer would conduct “park, talk and walks,” meet with office personnel, interact with the students, conduct monthly facility surveys and assist in lock down drills while on regular patrol.

• Conduct in house review training for officers on “Active Shooter/Rapid Deployment.”

According to Marron, the committee meets weekly and all of the members have been trained to varying degrees by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, in the Incident Command System.

Five members of the Darien Police Department, including Marron, are members of the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team, which functions as a S.W.A.T. team, with a jurisdiction that includes six towns and lower Fairfield County.

Marron said he currently holds multiple certifications from FEMA and Department of Homeland Security in several levels of the Incident Command System including ‘Active Shooter Preparedness,’ ‘Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning For Schools,’ ‘The Incident Command System for Schools,’ ‘National Incident Management System,’ and the ‘National Response Plan.’

Falcone said the school district has increased vigilance and will continue to look to improve how it creates a safe environment.

“I feel confident in the system we have now, but we always want to look to improve anything in terms of safety,” Falcone said.

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  • Mark

    While many of us Tokeneke alumni were sad to see to see the old building replaced, I can see how it would have made security more complicated in these new times.

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