FRANKLIN — Retired Sgt. Lloyd Williams knew as a young person growing up in Franklin that he wanted to be a state trooper and that he loved dogs.
Throughout his career, he merged those two interests together, becoming an instrumental force in starting the state’s K9 program.
This summer, he will be honored as the state’s Legendary Trooper, an award that recognizes “a career of excellence and work that left a lasting legacy and impact on the Maine State Police,” according to Maine State Police Col. John Cote.
“Our K9 program is regarded as one of the best in the nation and with over 20 teams in action, with skills from tracking, protection, drug detection and cadaver recovery, they serve as a force multiplier across the entire state,” Cote said. “Sgt. Williams recognized the benefits properly trained K9s could provide to the public’s safety.”
Williams was driven by his dreams to work for the state police and the relationships he developed — with those on two legs and four.
“I didn’t go through my career to be a Legendary Trooper,” Williams reflected on a recent sunny afternoon. “I went through it because I love the state police.”
Fittingly, he wore a T-shirt with a German shepherd printed on it.
“My career was a fun career,” he added. “I put a lot into it.”
After graduating Ellsworth High School and serving four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, Williams became a trooper in 1966 following his graduation from the Police Academy.
His first placement was in Washington County, where he served for five years. He was then transferred to Ellsworth, where he made corporal and served about nine years. Afterward, he was promoted to sergeant and moved to work in the Bangor area. Williams led the K9 program, which began in 1979, until his retirement in 1987.
Now a revered program throughout the state, it took some convincing by Williams to get the K9 program off the ground.
“I had always been interested in dogs from the time I was 7 years old,” he recalled. In the late 1970s, Williams teamed up with another trooper who was interested in training dogs and worked with two German shepherds. The trainings were not fully sanctioned by the state police, he said, but the colonel at the time, Col. Allan Weeks, did give the OK for the dogs to accompany the troopers in police vehicles.
After training the dogs, Williams invited a group of law enforcement professionals, including Weeks, to watch a demonstration.
“It went well,” Williams said. It went so well, that the dogs were sanctioned to do scent work.
The dogs were not initially sanctioned to perform crowd control or anything that might be interpreted as aggressive toward the public.
“[Weeks] was concerned about the racial riots,” Williams said, including images at the time from national news outlets of dogs attacking Black demonstrators.
“We’ll have absolutely none of that,” Williams recalled Weeks saying.
Demonstrating the calm and obedient nature of the dogs remained a tenet in Williams’ police work.
“The dogs aren’t vicious,” Williams said. “They are only trained to react to situations.”
“I always felt I had good common sense. I knew what the department wanted, what the chief wanted,” he added.
In 1982, the Maine State Police held its first state training class, with help from the Connecticut and Massachusetts State Police units and Williams as the first Maine State Police canine trainer. By the time of his retirement, there were 18 state police dog teams.
Williams also did demonstrations across the state, bringing dogs with him to schools, libraries and Boy Scout functions.
“The kids were just enthralled,” Williams said.
As Williams oversaw the K9 program, the work the dogs did was critical in state policing.
Williams and a dog, Ben, were involved in the 1981 Moody Mountain Manhunt in Searsmont, a weeks-long search for two Maine State Prison escapees, Arnold Nash and Milton Wallace. Ben helped find the escapees, before surviving one of their gunshots.
The year before, Williams and a dog named Gin responded to a homicide in Carmel. After a car chase that resulted in the apprehension of the murder suspect, Gin went back to the crime scene and found the gun that had been used as the murder weapon.
“Maybe three minutes,” had passed before Gin found the weapon, Williams said.
These instances helped to strengthen the K9 program and convince Col. Weeks to keep it going. Partnerships were formed with other law enforcement departments.
“It was cases like that that set us up with the detectives,” Williams said.
“That’s how you had to do it,” he added. “You had to make believers out of these people.”
Williams’ career was built largely on trust.
He recognized the teamwork and effort that multiple units put into a crime scene before K9 units tracked down suspects or goods and he knew the communities he was policing.
Often, when he would stop teenagers for speeding, he would talk to their families.
“We didn’t have to arrest them or take them to court to get compliance,” Williams said.
“I always treated everybody like they were human,” he added. “Like they were my friend.”