Preckwinkle Pulls Plug On County's Long Floundering 'Project Shield' Camera Program (VIDEO)
The program has cost at least $44 million in federal funding and was, as of this February, under investigation by the FBI, but now the controversial "Project Shield" will be no more, per an announcement by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times which, alongside NBC Chicago, was behind a three-year investigation into the program, "Project Shield" has run rampant technical glitches, cost overruns and questionable subcontracting decisions. Put simply, the program, began and continued by Preckwinkle's predecessors John and Todd Stroger, was not getting the job done. It is now the subject of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security audit.
"Project Shield was not working and it is time we went in a new direction," Preckwinkle said in a press conference. "The problems in the Project Shield program have been well documented in the past and we undertook a careful review of the program in light of those issues."
(Watch more of Preckwinkle's comments as part of an NBC Chicago video report below.)
The program was initially conceived as a response to the 9/11 attacks, funded through Homeland Security dollars to equip 128 police departments throughout Cook County with cameras in their squad cars and at their stations that were connected to central command centers, thus allowing live video footage to be shared in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
The county had been paying the project's contractor, Johnson Controls Inc., $190,000 each month to maintain the equipment which the county was apparently aware was not working, the Chicago Tribune reported. In addition to not being functional, the cameras were also blocking squad car air bags, potentially endangering police officers themselves.
“Cook County has, at best, a semi-functional system and, at worst, a glaring example of mismanagement and poor design,” Michael Masters, director of Cook County's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said in the press conference.
As of early last year, the program had already gone $12 million over budget, though only 103 cameras had been installed to that point. Just over one-quarter of them were not functioning correctly.
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.