Back in day, in the 1980s, Steven Bogdalek, a big, burly guy, was an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Detroit. If some mistook him for a football player, well, that was understandable.
He was offensive tackle, All-Big 10 for Michigan State University, from 1982-85 and he was subsequently drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. But his NFL career ended prematurely because of an injury. So he moved on to a career with ATF.
While he faced some tough guys on the football field, he also bumped up against some brutal types on the streets. He worked on squads that investigated some of Detroit’s most notorious drug gangs.
"Steve Bogdalek brought his team-player mentality to ATF in Detroit from his athletic prowess on the gridiron at Michigan State," recalls Bernard La Forest, who headed up the Detroit ATF office at the time. "He was an integral part of our task force efforts in the enforcement squad that investigated the most violent of Detroit’s drug organizations: The Chambers Brothers, Ed Hanserd’s crew, Clifford Jones’ operation, Erie Adams’ organization, and remnants of YBI (Young Boys Incorporated) and Best Friends.
"Steve and the other ATF special agents were successful in just about every investigative operation they opened," La Forest said.
LaForest recalls how effective Bogdalek was in getting access to buildings and homes during raids, using a battering ram.
"With Steve handling the ram, entry into buildings and dope houses was always quick and efficient," La Forest said, describing him as humble.
In 1998, Bogdalek went to Toledo to head up the ATF office. And in pursuing years, he moved around the country, eventually ending up in Los Angeles as the top agent of the ATF office. In January, he’ll return to Detroit, the place he started his career, to head up the Detroit office.
“I’m happy to becoming back to Detroit,” he told Deadline Detroit. “Life comes full circle sometimes. I’m ending up back here where I started.”
Bogdalek, who was raised in Naperville, Ill., knows he faces some serious challenges in Detroit, with its violent crime and limited police resources. He says Flint, which is also in his territory, has its challenges as well.
“We have a big task in front of us,” he said.
Of the Detroit Police Department, he said: “The good news is the police department is under new leadership, strong leadership.”
After leaving Toledo in 2000, he went to headquarters as the Branch Chief of the Firearms Enforcement Branch where he directed staff to review and monitor significant firearms investigations to look for new trends nationally and internationally.
In 2002, he was appointed assistant special agent in charge of the St. Paul, Minn., division and oversaw five criminal enforcement groups and one intelligence group in a three state area.
In 2012, he headed west to take charge of the Los Angeles Field Division.
“My family is happy to be coming back,” he said. “I’m a Midwesterner at heart. I have a place in my heart for Detroit.
“I’m always up for a challenge. I want to make sure ATF is doing its part in making the city safer."