'Project Shield' fiasco continues to gouge taxpayers

Project Shield was law enforcement's camera system. It's long defunct, but the fiasco hasn't ended.
October 23, 2013 9:50:34 AM PDT
One of Cook County's greatest tax-funded failures isn't done gouging the taxpayers. "Project Shield" was law enforcement's camera system. It's long defunct, but the fiasco hasn't ended.

There is an old line about throwing good money after bad, a line that seems to fit this case. It involves a bungled video system for first responders known as "Project Shield." After Cook County wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on the debacle, county officials are about to pay even more for old bills in the case.

The I-Team has learned that at Wednesday's county board meeting, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez will recommend settling a lawsuit filed by an electronics vendor, a settlement that will cost six figures.

Real-time video fed to the Cook County Communications Command Center from 82 camera equipped squad cars. In 2008, under the Stroger administration, it was a pioneering project-- and a plain expensive one-- $45 million in federal homeland security funds to equip suburban police cars and transmitter towers.

There was just one problem.

"This program may have been looted by Cook County officials and the prime and secondary contractors involved," said U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois).

And so the plug was pulled on Project Shield, an investigation by the DHS Inspector General found malfunctions, malfeasance, missing records equipment. But there was still a valid county contract with Milwaukee mega-firm Johnson controls. Johnson filed a lawsuit claiming it was owed nearly $1 million.

At Wednesday's county board meeting, authorization is expected for a settlement payment to Johnson of $495,000 for the greatest law enforcement system that never was.

A Cook County spokesperson on Tuesday says this is the final Project Shield lawsuit payment. But that doesn't necessarily mean the current Cook County administration can wash its hands of the sins of the previous administration. There has been a federal criminal investigation of Project Shield and those responsible for administering it.


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