The Darien school district has hired six new school security officers, has a plan in place for them to start training, and a schedule for when the security officers will be visiting schools to meet and greet parents and staff.
The SSOs are “an essential part of our focused effort” to keep schools safe, Security Director Leon Krolikowski said in a news release. The six will be assigned to their schools on April 17, 2023.
“All our SSOs have at least 20 years of public safety experience, decades-long training in various disciplines, and a desire to enhance the safety of our schools,” Krolikowski said. “Our SSOs’ backgrounds, experience, and commitment to school safety is impressive.”
SSOs will work as a team with campus monitors already at the elementary schools, he said.
“These SSOs varied and accomplished experiences in law enforcement and school security will strengthen the safety and security within our district,” Schools Superintendent Alan Addley said in a letter emailed to parents and staff. “We welcome them all as members of our Darien Blue Wave community.”
The New Security Officers
The six new school security officers (SSOs) have decades of public and youth safety experience. Each of the town’s five elementary schools will get an SSO, and the sixth will be a “floating” security officer for all elementary schools.
(Darien police officers were previously assigned to Middlesex Middle School [Officer Bryce Brown] and Darien High School [Officer Bryan Wallman] as “school resource officers.” Unlike school security officers, those two officers remain part of Darien Police Department.)
• Mark Cappelli is a Darien resident. Mark has been with the Darien Police Department for twenty-seven years and has served as a detective and youth officer. Mark is a board member of the Thriving Youth Task Force and the Juvenile Review Board. He graduated from Darien High School and earned an Associate of Science Degree from the Norwalk Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy.
Mark is assigned as the floating SSO for all Darien Schools. Regarding his new position, he said, “Having had the honor of serving the town of Darien as a police officer, I look forward to the next chapter as a school security officer for the Board of Education.”
• Michael DiPane is a Bethel resident. Michael retired from the New York City Police Department after 20 years, where he served as a police officer, sergeant, and lieutenant. After retiring, he served as Security Officer for various institutions. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Farmingdale State College.
Michael is assigned to Hindley School. Michael commented regarding his new position, “As a retired law enforcement officer with over 10 years of school security experience, I have full faith the district chose correctly in hiring me to help keep the children and faculty safe in this very uncertain world.”
• Leonard LaBonia is a Southbury resident. Len has been with the Danbury Police Department for twenty-seven years and has served as a police officer and detective.
Len has volunteered as a student mentor at Danbury Public Schools, and he is an adjunct criminal justice professor at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU). While attending WCSU, he earned a Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Science degrees in Justice Administration.
Len is assigned to Tokeneke School. Regarding his new position, Len commented, “I am looking forward to engaging with students, families, and staff. Ensuring the safety of students and staff will be a top priority, and I’m excited to become part of the community at Tokeneke Elementary.”
• William Larkin is a Stamford resident. Bill retired from the Greenwich Police Department after 29 years, where he served as a patrol officer and sergeant. He is a former youth football, basketball, and baseball coach and an emergency medical technician.
He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s of Business Administration degrees at Iona College. Before his policing career, Bill worked as the assistant director of Residence Operations at SUNY Purchase. Bill is assigned to Royle School. Regarding his new position, Bill commented, “I look forward to being a member of the Darien School Community.”
•Shawn Murray is a New Milford resident. Shawn has been with the Ridgefield Police Department for 26 years and has served as a patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant, and canine handler.
He is a youth football coach. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at Culver-Stockton College.
Shawn is assigned to Holmes School. Regarding his new position, Shawn commented, “I am looking forward to working with Darien Public Schools and the staff, students, and faculty at Holmes Elementary School.”
Ox Ridge School
• John O’Connor is a Southington resident. John retired from the Connecticut State Police Department after twenty years, where he served as a trooper and canine handler. He recently served as an Armed School Safety Officer at the Sherman School.
Before serving as a trooper, John worked in Massachusetts as a Special Education Aide/Substitute Teacher. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. John is assigned to Ox Ridge School. Regarding his new position,
“When I started my career in public safety over 20 years ago, I would have never imagined working in a school,” O’Connor said. “Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m here to give parents peace of mind by ensuring that every day is just another day for their kids.”
How They Were Hired
The SSO recruitment process began in the fall of 2022, resulting in a high-quality candidate pool that submitted employment applications. The Darien police chief, the district’s directors of security, finance & operations, human resources, elementary school principals, and the superintendent of schools helped identify finalists during interviews.
The finalists completed an intensive testing and selection process, including a “thorough public safety psychological evaluation, background investigation, and medical and drug testing,” Krolikowski said in a news release.
During the week of April 3, the SSOs and principals will host meet and greet sessions for parents at each of the elementary schools.
The SSOs will begin orientation, training, and certification on April 3, 2023. The training and certification will be conducted by staff at the Darien Police Department and Darien Public Schools. The SSOs will start working at their respective schools on April 17, 2023.
This training includes but is not limited to first aid, de-escalation, use of force, firearms, campus security, visitor management, threat assessment and response, incident command, school law, mandated reporting, sexual harassment, physical and psychological management training, RULER, DBT, responsive classroom, scenario-based training, bullying, emergency response training, and sensitivity training.
More information about DPS security, chain of communication and frequently asked questions, see the DPS Campus Security website.