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Feds Investigating County's "Project Shield"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The FBI and the Inspector General's office from the Department of Homeland Security are looking at how tens of millions of dollars have been spent by Cook County officials, NBC Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times have learned. (Published Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011)

    The FBI, along with the Inspector General's office from the Department of Homeland Security, are looking at how tens of millions of dollars have been spent by Cook County officials, NBC Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times have learned.

      The federal funds were earmarked for a controversial program called Project Shield.
     
    Between $45 and $50 million in federal Homeland Security money has been spent to outfit suburban police cars with cameras.
     
    Those cameras are supposed to stream live video back to a central command center in cases of emergency, including a terrorist attack.
     
    But Project Shield, which was first implemented by IBM back in 2004, has had serious technical problems, calling into question how the money was spent and the safety provided.  
     
    According to a source familiar with the investigation, the FBI has been called in at the request of government auditors who were at the Cook County building in January.
     
    A spokeswoman for new County Board President Toni Preckwinkle acknowledged that federal auditors have been at the County building, adding:
     
    "The President's Office, Office of Information Technology and the Department of Homeland Security are all cooperating with the audit."
     
    The audit stems from a 2009 request by then Congressman Mark Kirk and current Congressman and former County Commissioner Mike Quigley.
     
    Told this week of the audit and investigation, Quigley responded:  "We’ve already wasted that money and for these years we are less safe."
     
    All 128 suburban Cook County municipalities were supposed to be connected by the video network and while some departments praised Project Shield, others said the technology failed and opted out, leaving it incomplete and millions over-budget.
     
    Project Shield was begun under the administration of the late Board president John Stroger but most work occurred during the term of Todd Stroger.
     
    The FBI declined to comment.
     
    "It’s a scandal. I think it is going to take another year or so to unfold, as any investigation moves forward," said Quigley.
     
    A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security would not confirm the audit, but said in general they take anywhere from six to nine months and results are released about a year after the audit begins.

    Full Coverage: Project Shield