After a thorough review of the program known as Project Shield, the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Ofﬁce of Inspector General, in its recently completed report, concurs with the ﬁndings of an internal audit conducted by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) last summer, and supports the direction in which the Department has moved under its new leadership.
Cook County’s internal review found a program with inefficiencies related to the initiative; poor planning and management; and unsafe installation of equipment in ﬁrst responder vehicles.
“When we looked at Project Shield, we found a large number of issues related to this program — from its conception to its implementation. We began immediately to correct what we saw as glaring problems, ending the program known as Project Shield,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I am very pleased that the Inspector General not only identiﬁed those same issues, but concurs with and supports the new direction of the Department.”
Upon reviewing the Project Shield program, DHSEM concurred with the concerns articulated by Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley and now-Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, when they initially requested a review of the use of grant funds on the Project Shield program, and began working with the Inspector General in their investigation. “We appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the members of the Inspector General’s ofﬁce on their report and would like to recognize the efforts of the Inspector General’s ofﬁce to provide insight into a problem that was quickly targeted by the County’s new administration, and where swift action was taken by the County to correct past mismanagement,” noted Michael Masters, Executive Director of DHSEM.
Project Shield was an initiative begun by Cook County in 2004 that was conceived to provide situational awareness through audio, video and data communications from ﬁrst responder vehicles and ﬁxed-site locations back to local jurisdictions and Cook County. The project was plagued, from its inception, with issues ranging from its exorbitant cost to its impracticality, poor design and unsafe implementation.
“Correcting the problems that we inherited from previous administrations has been my priority since coming into the Department, and the program known as Project Shield was at the top of the list,” said Masters. “I am proud to state that – prior to the release of the Inspector General’s report – DHSEM had eliminated the Project Shield program. More broadly, we have undertaken a complete reorganization of the entire department by making key stafﬁng changes, overhauling our operational capabilities, and implementing procedures which are guided by performance metrics and that stress accountability, integrity and transparency. We are moving forward.”
Cook County has also begun work in collaboration with the City of Chicago on a Threat and Hazard Identiﬁcation and Risk Assessment (THIRA) to identify critical infrastructure and locations where enhanced security measures would be recommended. Equipment that was purchased for Project Shield is being repurposed and a well-planned, comprehensively tested Homeland Security strategy is being implemented in cooperation with local ﬁrst responders.
“Under President Preckwinkle’s leadership, we will continue to move forward proactively to ensure that we have a productive and sustainable plan for the safety and security of our Urban Area and that we administer programs with federal grant dollars efﬁciently and effectively,” adds Masters. “In so doing, we will continue to meet the President’s mandate to enhance preparedness and response capabilities with integrity, responsibility, ﬁscal accountability and transparency within the operations of Cook County.”