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Mitch Wido (fourth from the left in the photo) has been with the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or better known as ATF for 28 years. But the 1981 graduate of Morton College’s Law Enforcement program still feels the euphoria and excitement associated with the first week of a new job.
Wido is a Senior Special Agent with the ATF. His current assignment is with the Chicago Field Division’s Explosives Investigations Group, where he investigates bombings and explosions. Wido works with and provides arson and explosives instruction to various federal, state and local agencies assisting ATF agents on cases.
The Cicero native, who played baseball and hockey at Morton College, caught the law enforcement bug early. The dads of some of Wido’s closest friends growing up were Cicero police officers.
“I looked up to them and I respected them,” Wido said. “It seemed to be an interesting career.”
Wido still tells this story today as to why he came to Morton College. The graduate of Lincoln Grade School and Morton East High School liked that Morton College was in his neighborhood. He also was employed at the time with the Clyde Park District in Cicero.
“I was impressed with the community college system because of the on-the-job experience of the instructors,” Wido said. “I worked during the day, so I had to take some night courses. Many of the law enforcement instructors had police jobs during the day and then came to school at night to teach. I enjoyed having law enforcement instructors with on-the-job experience and teaching it to us.”
After receiving his associate’s degree from Morton College, Wido transferred to Lewis University in Romeoville, where he graduated with honors receiving a bachelor of arts degree in Social Justice. While finishing up his last semester at Lewis, Wido was hired as a police officer in Oak Brook in 1983.
In 1987, Wido applied for and was hired at ATF.
“I was interested in a government career and decided this was a good move,” he said.
Wido’s first assignment with ATF was as a special agent in the Chicago Field Division with a firearms investigation group. His specialty evolved into becoming a Special Agent Certified Explosives Specialist (SACES) investigating bombings and explosives. As an Explosives Specialist, Wido has been sent to Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, once in 2004 to provide explosive investigation training to the Iraqi Police Service and again in 2006 where he was a member of a military response team charged with investigating roadside bombing attacks on coalition forces.
As part of intergovernmental cooperation among federal agencies, Wido has worked with the U.S. Secret Service as part of the President’s security team, U.S. Department of State for visiting foreign dignitaries and at events like the NATO summit in Chicago.
Wido’s current duty has him partnered with “Deja”, an 8-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever. She is one of 35 ATF explosives detection K-9s currently working with ATF special agents. They have been together for six years and Deja lives with Wido. Both are on call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They trained together for 10 weeks at an ATF Canine Training Center in Virginia before going out in the field.
“She has to find a wide variety of explosive compounds, everything from spent shell casings to fireworks to TNT, you name it,” Wido said. “If it is an explosive chemical mixture, she is trained to find it. K-9 Deja can detect over 19,000 different types of chemical formulations that are found in explosives.”
In addition to his ATF duties, Wido lectures and teaches to a variety of audiences in the private and public sectors. He has been a visiting instructor at the University of Illinois Fire Science Institute, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary.
“As an investigator, there’s quite a bit of independence involved,” Wido said. “You need to have personal drive, discipline and a good work ethic to be successful.”