God help us, but things just haven't been as exciting in Little Rock since Tommy Robinson packed up his six-shooters and rode out of town. As Pulaski County sheriff from 1980-1984 (it seemed longer, didn't it?) Robinson modeled himself as part lawman, part showman, part superman, milking every photo op and engaging in a torrid love/hate relationship with the Little Rock media. For their part, the press dutifully portrayed Robinson as a two-fisted cop who kept the peace at any cost. In the end, it was that "at any cost" part that bothered us.
In November 1982, the Times published a long interview with William"Wimpy" Galiano, a former Pulaski narcotics agent, who painted a very different portrait of the tactics Robinson's department used to fight crime. A child of the Little Rock underworld, Galiano had a strong-arm robbery conviction on his record by the time a change of heart caused him to sign on as an narc for the Little Rock Police Department in the 1970s. In 1981, with over 150 successful undercover drug buys under his belt, Galiano said he was wooed away from the LRPD by Robinson, who promised him certain perks the Little Rock cops couldn't provide. Still technically a civilian, not to mention a felon who couldn't carry a gun or work as an officer of the law, Galiano said Robinson helped him get a sheriff's office badge and ID card (the Times was eventually able to obtain a photostat copy of the ID card, signed by Robinson, which listed Galiano as a "restricted special deputy"). Before long, Galiano said he was allowed to pack heat, holding suspects at gunpoint until backup arrived, something he had never been allowed to do at the LRPD.
"I was climbing slow, but I had finally reached the status of having a badge," he said. "It would only be a matter of time before I would get a governor's pardon and be certified as a law enforcement officer."
Though Galiano admitted he "idolized" Robinson, a sting at a College Station salvage yard in August 1981 showed him the lengths the sheriff's office would go to in order to make a headline-grabbing bust. According to Galiano, after making a buy at the salvage yard and arresting a suspect outside, he followed the orders of a PUCO deputy and conducted an illegal search of the suspect's house, bringing the drugs and a weapon he found to the deputy, who waited on the porch (the deputy told the Times that he hadn't needed a search warrant for the house, because they had been invited in, and saw "drugs all over the place" once inside) Later, Galiano said, under Robinson's orders, he was given a prybar and told to pop the trunks of several cars in the yard, where he found 15 bags of marijuana. "After it was all over," Galiano said, "then they went and got the search warrants." It was Galiano's first taste of what he eventually saw as a pattern of police abuse, involving everything from entrapment to more illegal searches.
Eventually, Galiano decided to quit the sheriff's office and come clean with what he knew. After a trip to the prosecuting attorney's office to tell his story lead to nothing, he filed a $2 million civil rights lawsuit against Tommy Robinson, alleging that Robinson had endangered Galiano's personal safety and caused him to conduct illegal searches (the lawsuit was eventually dismissed; the judge ruled that regardless of the truth of his allegations, he could have refused to conduct the searches).
The day after Galiano filed suit, Robinson dragged out his soapbox, telling reporters that Galiano was an informant, but that his work had been falling off. For a man who had spent nearly 1- years working as an undercover agent, the effect of being exposed as a narc in the statewide newspapers was immediate. Everywhere Galiano went, he said, he was accosted by people he had helped send away. By the time he talked to Arkansas Times, Galiano was unemployed and behind on his child support, unable to find a job where he was sure he wouldn't run into a violent figure from his past. "After all I've done for this state," he said, "if these officials really gave a damn about the kids in this state, they'd say, 'Hey, look. This guy needs help.'"
For his part, Tommy Robinson's response to Galiano's claims of illegal searches and other shenanigans was pure TR: "This is all an attempt to take the heat off of other people in the criminal justice system. I know what's going on and I just want to say that I'm going to burn me some people when the proper time comes."
"I've always wanted to own a magazine," Robinson warned. "And if the Arkansas Times wants to listen to a man like William Galiano, it might just end up happening."
Robinson now owns a liquor store in Brinkley.
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