DHS Project Shield Program Completely Wasted $45 Million in Illinois

Feds find failures in Cook Co. homeland security project (Chicago Sun-Times):

Project Shield was supposed to make citizens safer. But in the end, the $45-million Homeland Security program more resembled a disaster, wasting taxpayers’ dollars and failing to make a single citizen more secure.

The failed Cook County initiative was replete with equipment that failed to work, missing records and untrained first responders according to a report by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The report, to be released Monday but obtained by The Sun-Times and NBC5 News, found “millions of tax dollars may have been wasted.”

Under Project Shield, two police squad cars in all 128 Cook County suburbs were to be fitted with cameras capable of feeding live video to a central command. In addition, fixed mounted cameras were to be installed to feed pictures in case of a terrorist attack or emergency in Cook County.

A six-month investigation by the IG found “equipment was not working, was removed, or could not be properly operated.”

Investigators visited 15 municipalities between January and June last year and found “missing records, improper procurement practices, unallowable costs and unaccountable inventory items.”

Kirk, Quigley want FBI investigation into Project Shield (WBEZ):

Project Shield was intended to be a sophisticated system of video cameras in squad cars and key spots around the suburbs. It was to help with homeland security – transmitting live footage to police during emergency situations. The program was run by Cook County under former Board Presidents John Stroger and Todd Stroger.

But a new report out Monday by the U.S. Inspector General shows Project Shield was a mismanaged mess. Camera equipment didn’t get delivered, and even when it did, it oftentimes didn’t even work. The cameras and related equipment for police cars were revealed to pose safety risks, too, as they were installed in front of airbags – making the technology a potential projectile.

The $45 million dollars funding the program came from FEMA. In a news conference Monday, U.S. Republican Sen. Mark Kirk says Cook County couldn’t have screwed up Project Shield any further if it tried to.

“So it does appear to be gross incompetence, waste and potential criminal activity was at the heart of this program,” Kirk said.

Kirk was joined at the news conference by U.S. Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, and both called for a FBI investigation into the program. As to why Kirk and Quigley suspect criminal conduct and not just mismanagement, Kirk said, “168 change orders all adding to cost, and yet the I.G. could find no documentation for that. So money was paid to contractors and sub-contractors for additional work and yet we have no idea what they did or how it was accounted for.”

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