Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today that her administration has identified wide-reaching problems with Project Shield and are taking immediate steps to correct the waste of tax-payer dollars and life-threatening risks the project poses.
With federal grant funding under the Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative going towards this project at a significant cost to taxpayers, President Preckwinkle made overhauling the program a priority. An internal review of Project Shield public safety revealed inefficiencies with the use of tax dollars going into the program, and poor planning – often with little or no input from personnel in the field. Furthermore, the review determined that law enforcement personnel put themselves at great personal risk due to the grossly unsafe equipment that was being used within Project Shield.
“Our first concern is the safety of our citizens and our first responders, and our review showed us that the program that we had in place was not achieving sufficient results,” said President Toni Preckwinkle. “Project Shield, as we know it, will be coming to an end. We will continue to meet with police and fire personnel to develop a plan to utilize our federal grant dollars in a way which serves our first responders, as well as the safety and security of our residents.”
The County will undertake a Threat and Hazard Risk Assessment, to identify – through a detailed process – critical infrastructure and those locations where enhanced security measures would be recommended, as opposed to simply deploying cameras without a process as was often done in the past. Project Shield equipment that has been installed in the DHSEM offices and vehicles – equipment worth over $780,000.00 – will be removed and re-allocated to better serve our first responders. The County continues to operate under a maintenance contract with the contractor that costs approximately $190,000.00 per month to maintain the Project Shield system and the DHSEM has asked for a detailed and itemized break-down of these costs so as to ensure that grant dollars are appropriately accounted for.
President Preckwinkle was joined by Michael Masters, Director of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at a news conference.
“We must ensure that federal grant dollars are used responsibly, for programs that enhance security and safety, not detract from these,” Masters said. “As a program, Project Shield fails on all accounts. As a concept, Project Shield is a bad solution to a non-existent problem.”
Congressman and former Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who has been vocal on the need to reform Project Shield in the past, weighed in on the President’s plans to overhaul the program.
“Misusing taxpayer dollars on a highway project leaves us with less money, but misusing taxpayer dollars on homeland security also leaves us less safe,” Congressman Mike Quigley said. “To make matters worse, the Project Shield devices have been putting first responders in danger, which is egregious and unacceptable. I’m glad that President Preckwinkle and Director Masters recognized these issues immediately, and I look forward to working together to right these wrongs.”
Project Shield was previously conceived by Cook County officials and begun in 2004. The objective of the project was to provide situational awareness through audio, video and data communications from police squad cars back to their department headquarters, as well as to the County and to deploy fixed site-cameras at various locations.