From 2 Investigators
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UPDATED 01/09/12 5:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) have teamed up to demand a federal investigation into the way Cook County spent U.S. Homeland Security dollars under former board president Todd Stroger.
As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Kirk told reporters at least $20 million out of $45 million U.S. Homeland Security dollars had been wasted in the Project Shield program, if not more. The federal program — the subject of previous 2 Investigators reports — was supposed to better equip suburbs in Cook County to handle acts of terrorism.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
But 32 of the 128 Cook County suburbs never received any equipment at all, and several others gave back their equipment because it didn’t work.
Kirk says 18 percent of all the equipment purchased under the federal grants and then decommissioned, is missing. Some may have been stolen or fenced, he said.
“All of this indicates that we may have more than just a problem of lackadaisical management,” Kirk said. “This program may have been looted by Cook County officials, and the prime and secondary contractors involved.”
When Quigley was a commissioner on the Cook County Board, he joined then-commissioners Forrest Claypool, now head of the Chicago Transit Authority, and Anthony Peraica, now a private attorney, in calling for an investigation into the program.
“What was troubling to me wasn’t just the waste that was taking place. It was the denial,” he said. “We also heard from some police that were trying to defend Cook County (officials) because they wanted continued program money in a cooperative effort with Cook County. But we were hearing from police and staff members from various municipalities that it just did not work.”
Kirk and Quigley have sent a letter to the FBI requesting a criminal inquiry.
The 2 Investigators began making inquiries into Project Shield four years ago. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security audit unveiled this week confirms what many police departments had already told CBS 2.
In 2008, East Hazel Crest Police Chief Ray Roberston was one of the first to publicly complain about failures in the squad car video-surveillance system. The system was supposed to connect 128 municipalities to one central command center.
“I can’t get it to work on a day-to-day basis,” Robertson told CBS 2’s Dave Savini.
The 2 Investigators found Project Shield failed repeatedly in Streamwood, Schiller park, Glenview, Niles, Evergreen Park, Robbins, Thornton and Phoenix.
Several police departments ripped the gear out of their squads.
The federal audit alleges there are missing records, missing equipment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in contract change orders that lacked documentation to back them up.
In one of the biggest snafus, the county never tested the camera equipment during hot and cold climates. Extreme temperatures caused repeated failures.
The project began under the late Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr., but most of the work was done under the administration of his son and successor in office, Todd Stroger.
Current County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ultimately did away with the program.