Mitch Wido has been with the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or better known as ATF for 26 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 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 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 in Social Justice. He spent four years as a police officer in Oak Brook before applying to work at the ATF.
“I was interested in a government career and decided this was a good move,” Wido said.
Wido’s first assignment with ATF was as a special agent in the Chicago Field Division for a firearms investigation group. His specialty evolved into investigating bombings and explosives. Wido has been sent to Iraq twice, once in 2004 to provide explosive investigation training to the Iraqi Police Service. Two years later, Wido was back in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 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 and at events like last year’s NATO summit in Chicago.
Wido also has a partner – Deja, a 4-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever. She is one of 30 ATF explosives detection K-9s currently working with ATF special agents. They have been together for three 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 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 mixtures 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, the 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.”