A troubled Cook County program put faulty camera equipment in police cars, wasting perhaps millions of federal dollars, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general said in an audit released this morning.
Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Michael Quigley called for an FBI investigation over "potential criminal misuse of federal funds" on "equipment that does not perform as intended" in the program, known as "Project Shield."
The U.S. report found that Cook County did not adequately plan or manage the $45 million project to ensure that equipment worked properly and could be operated in an emergency situation.
The idea behind Project Shield was to install wireless capability for first responders to quickly access and communicate text, image and video information in emergency situations.
In 2009, both Kirk, then a congressman, and Quigley requested that Homeland Security review the program.
In June, Cook County officials pulled the plug on the program, largely implemented under former County Board President Todd Stroger, after a review by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's administration. That review found an "ill-conceived, poorly designed and badly executed program that put the lives of emergency responders in danger," said Michael Masters, director of the county's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, at the time.
The $65,000 cameras not only didn't work, but blocked air bag deployment in the cars, he said.
At that time, 138 cars were equipped with the cameras, and county officials advised suburban police departments to stop using the cars.
The county had paid $190,000 to Johnson Controls Inc. to maintain equipment that mostly didn't work, Masters said.
The U.S. audit found that a number of municipalities involved in the program either returned the equipment, complained about a lack of training or didn't know how to transmit video to a command center.
"The lack of planning was evidenced by faulty equipment, questionable locations for the equipment, and inability to integrate with existing communications equipment," the inspector general's report said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun