Whistleblower Sergeant Files Civil Lawsuit After Retaliation

Loaded Gun Held to Sergeant’s Head

South Kingstown Police Department patch
South Kingstown Police Department

(RI) – In January of 2019, Sergeant Michael Bronson went to his captain to report sexual harassment he had seen. The sergeant claimed that Lt. Scott Orton was harassing a new female dispatcher. Instead of immediately initiating an investigation, Captain Alfred Bucco told Lt. Orton about the complaint. This began a pattern of harassment against Sergeant Bronson. Sergeant Bronson began receiving poor performance ratings and was denied promotions.


Bronson accused Orton of then committing felony assault by pointing a loaded handgun at his head while stating “I should kick your ass” during roll call at the department as fellow officers watched.

Sergeant Bronson reported the “assault and the sexual harassment to Lt. Montafix Houghton and an internal investigation was launched.”


Orton was placed on administrative leave while it was under way, but positioned himself behind Bronson on his first day back, pantomiming with his hand that he was shooting him, the suit said.

Civil Attorneys File Mental Anguish Lawsuit

Both Sergeant Bronson and the dispatcher, Deanna Marler, retained civil attorneys and threatened to sue. Sergeant Bronson claims he “he began experiencing anxiety, depression and panic attacks that necessitated his taking a four-week stress leave at the advice of his doctor.”


Marler accused Orton of retaliating against her when she tried to speak up, yelling at her, telling her she was lucky to have her job and making disparaging comments, the letter said.

The actions taken against Sergeant Bronson are a violation of the Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. Sergeant Bronson was subjected to harassment and intimidation for reporting another officer’s actions. His work environment became very hostile, and his captain appeared to be supportive of Lt. Orton’s harassment.

The Blue Wall

This story is a perfect example of officers protecting other officers, even against one of their own. An honorable officer stood up for a woman who was being sexually harassed. He was then retaliated against and harassed to the point of suffering mental distress.

Sergeant Bronson’s attacker pointed a loaded gun at the sergeant’s head in front of other officers. How is it that the action didn’t result in criminal charges? Was everyone too afraid to admit to seeing it, not wanting to look like a snitch? Or did they admit to it and the investigation downplayed it as not that big a deal?

This is what was done to a police officer of rank. You can see why civilians working for law enforcement are afraid to report what is done to them. They know they won’t have any support and will be the one most likely to lose their job.

Lieutenant Scott Orton

As for Lt. Orton, it doesn’t appear he suffered any type of disciplinary action. We know he wasn’t charged with felony assault for pointing his weapon at the head of another officer. According to the article, he was placed on administrative leave, but then it mentions his first day back. That appears to indicate that nothing was done to him. The most we know is that:

Orton filed retirement papers with the state in January 2020, the same week the South Kingstown Town Council revealed it had received demand letters from Bronson and dispatcher Deanna Marler threatening to sue over his behavior.

Marler may have accepted a settlement, but Sergeant Bronson has followed through with his civil lawsuit against the town and several of its high-ranking members.

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