Darien High School’s student resource officer is Bryan Wallman and is currently on his second year on the job, starting last February and taking the place of officer James Palmieri. The role of the SRO is to essentially be a police officer in school and an aid to any students who are in need of help.
Officer Wallman began his career as a police officer in 2006 when he joined the Darien Police Department, working as an officer there until he began as the SRO at DHS in 2017. Despite his title as a police officer, Wallman is more of a friend to many students at school rather than just an enforcer of the law. So far, he says that he has loved working with students and getting to know many of them, saying, “Working at DHS has been a really nice change of pace for me. Rather than just being in a car all day, I’ve gotten to see a different side of town and have met some really great people.”
Wallman has taken notice of many trends on his job with the kids at DHS. Common issues for young high schoolers have been alcohol and drugs but in the past five years a surging problem has been the emergence of the e-cigarette specifically “Juul.” Wallman when talking about the problem said, “It’s scary because it’s all very new. Parents don’t know, I don’t know, and even the kids don’t seem to know exactly the impact that these will have on them. What we do know though is that it’s definitely not safe.” New ways of consuming nicotine that aren’t necessarily government regulated are being created all the time and for Wallman it’s tough to stop. Many young underclassmen are getting exposed to these trends and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to contain.
Speaking more from the eyes of an underclassmen, a police officer walking around may intimidate students. Wallman said, “I understand that it may be intimidating but don’t be afraid to talk. I have a specific role at the school and it’s mostly to help kids. I try to make it clear that if anything is going on I am totally accepting and willing to speak.” Officer Wallman wants to continue to build a strong relationship with students, and make them feel comfortable to tell him if they see something going on that is troublesome or if they just want to talk.
A huge positive for Wallman and the rest of the department, though, is that Darien was just named the safest town in Connecticut by Safewise, an online safety review site. Wallman said about the ranking, “That’s obviously a huge point of pride for the department. It reflects well on all of the hard work that our officers do.”
As for training as an SRO, the National Association of School Resource Officers offers a variety of training classes that Wallman took to become educated on topics such as the teen brain, social media, and developing a strong relationship with students. Most recently, though, a hot button topic for SRO’s across the nation has been how to deal with an active shooter situation.
Specifically, Wallman has taken notice of all the school shootings that have taken place. Recently school shootings in both Florida and Maryland had completely different actions from SRO’s. In Florida many criticize the SRO for waiting outside the building and not acting while the active shooter was inside. At Great Mills High School in Maryland on March 21 the SRO handled a similar situation swiftly by acting immediately and firing back at the shooter. Two polar opposite responses clearly show the difficulties in the duty an SRO has to be responsible for. When asked about the proper way to deal with a school shooter Wallman said, “We do a lot of training, but the key point is we are trained to go right after the shooter and neutralize the situation.”
Officer Wallman has clearly enjoyed his role as SRO thus far, and looks to continue to build on what has been a successful tenure, making DHS as safe as possible in a very turbulent time for many high schools across the nation.