By John Collins The Valley Dispatch DRACUT - For the Dracut Police Department's newly named "Officer of the Year" Michael Williams, no giant trophy, new car, or cash bonus was attached to the announcement made recently by Chief of Police Kevin Richardson. That's OK with Williams, 40, a 12-year veteran of the Dracut police force. "It's a reward in itself to be recognized, knowing you're doing the right thing," said Williams, "It's not something I expected, but it was nice to get this." Williams said he could name several other Dracut officers worthy of such recognition. But if it was up to the relatives and friends of a Dracut woman, whose life Williams is credited with saving, they probably would like to name him officer of the year - and decade. In that missing-persons case, Williams took an urgent assignment from his shift commander to locate a woman who was reported missing. Williams' first stop was in the neighborhood where she was last seen the night before. "I went knocking door-to-door, and stopping cars that were driving by in the neighborhood, to ask people if they recognized the woman's driver's license photo; I had her picture on my phone and was showing it to them," recalled Williams. "One of the guys who happened to be driving by told me that yes, he'd seen her the night before passed out on the ground." The witness said he'd spotted the woman and drove to the location to point it out to Williams, following in his cruiser. "He told me, 'She was right here.


' There was a big wooded area there," said Williams. "I decided to look for her starting from outside the woodline and working my way in And there she was." Upon first glance, the woman, who was lying on her side in profile, presented an image to Williams of "complete hopelessness," said the officer, describing the sight he'll never forget. "Only one of her eyes was visible, and I'm looking down at her, not knowing if she's alive - it was really cold the night before - then she blinked," said Williams. "She's alive!" The woman was taken to Lowell General Hospital and survived. "Of all the bad things I've seen on the job, that was one of the worst," Williams said. Another one of Williams' finest moments as a Dracut officer, which also was reported by The Sun, involved the arrest of a group of thieves wanted for committing a series of overnight thefts of heavy equipment, vehicles and tools from construction companies in Dracut and greater Lowell. In the early morning hours of Sept. 22, 2011, Williams realized something wasn't right when he spotted a man driving off the lot of The Dow Company Inc., at 1112 Broadway Road, in a company truck that was loaded with tires, a snowmobile and a plow. The driver refused to pull over for Williams for a minor traffic violation, initiating a wild, high-speed chase of the stolen, loaded-down flatbed that went from Dracut to Pelham before ending in Lowell. Officers from several departments teamed up with Williams in the pursuit, using spike strips to flatten the truck's tires and capture the driver after a foot chase, and later his accomplices. Williams graduated from Dracut High School in 1991 before joining the Army as a military security officer for six years, doing law enforcement work while stationed initially in Arizona, then Korea and Hawaii. He was hired by the Dracut Police in 2000. "I started out in the military, but this was always my intended (career) destination, as a civilian police officer," said Williams, who considers himself to be "smack-dab in middle of" his desired 30-year career as a Dracut policeman. "I love this job. It's what I've always wanted to do." Follow John Collins on Twitter and Tout at johncolowellsun.