Sheriff Spat Escalates: “Misinformation”

The Federal tensions with the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been causing headaches for Burners, but there could be even more to come. It looks like nothing is being done to appease the Pershing County community. Quite the opposite, with Burning Man’s official statement accusing Sheriff Jerry Allen of disseminating misinformation: in other words, lying. A pissed off Sheriff is just one more problem for the lawyers, from the point of view of the Org; cops wanting to make more money off of Burning Man is a very real problem for Burners. Be careful out there: don’t give them any excuse to stop and search you.

Previous coverage:

Black Rock City – 100,000 or 50,000

Pershing County Requests 50,000 person limit at Burning Man

Sheriff Asks Org to Pony Up for More Officers

BURNILEAKS: Sexual Assaults, Missing Kids and Violent Crime

Re-blogged from the Lovelock Review Miner – emphasis and commentary ours


Burning Man disputes county comments

Debra Reid, News4Nevada

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 8:46 AM

In a rare public statement, a Burning Man spokesman questioned the accuracy of comments submitted to the BLM by Pershing County District Attorney Bryce Shields. The BLM accepted public comment as it evaluates the next ten-year Special Recreation Permit for the festival.

Roger Vind read a statement to county leaders during public comment. He asserted the county’s comments to the BLM are “inaccurate” due to “misinformation” provided by Sheriff Jerry Allen.

“It is unfortunate that misinformation propagated by the Sheriff has made its way into the County’s public comment,” Vind said. “We believe it is time for the Sheriff to be held accountable for his misstatements and mischaracterizations of our event.”

In his comments to the BLM, Shields suggested that Black Rock Rangers may have “filtered” crime reports by participants and that the BRR manual encouraged such behavior. As a result, crime reports could be less than the actual crimes committed at past Burning Man events.

“Anecdotal information from state and federal law enforcement officers suggests that the BRR encourages event participants to avoid reporting incidents to law enforcement in favor of resolving matters “in house” with the BRR’s assistance,” Shields said in comments to the BLM. “Such stories from law enforcement seem to be credible because the 2018 Black Rock Ranger (BRR) Manual contains instructions to BRRs to ‘filter’ what is reported to law enforcement.”

In his statement, Vind called it “absurd” to accuse Burning Man of stopping crime reports to law enforcement officers and that Black Rock Rangers have never been instructed to do so.

Our Black Rock Rangers in no way ‘filter’ information to law enforcement. In fact, there are 57 instances pertaining to law enforcement in the 2018 Black Rock Ranger Manual and the word ‘filter’ or any other reference to keeping information from law enforcement just does not exist.”

Vind also contradicted the implication by Shields that crimes at past events, including sexual assault, had been underreported to county law enforcement officers at Burning Man.

“This serious allegation is not only untrue but is contradicted by Sheriff Allen himself.”

Vind included an email from Allen regarding the need for a better definition of sexual assault.

“I do appreciate the lengths that BRC, with your assistance, has gone through to assist us in our endeavor to provide the best public safety we can,” Allen said in the email. “I also appreciate that you are instructing your Rangers to not inquire about penetration, or start an investigation, but rather to allow for the free flow of information from the potential victim.”

Allen later said the email text was accurate but that it was “grossly taken out of context.”

“That was a discussion about Burning Man’s internal policies which the Sheriff’s Office does not make,” he said. “I think their policies and some of their definitions are far out of line with Nevada Revised Statutes but I can’t make them change their internal policies.”

Allen said that, in his experience, “there have been things that have gone unreported.”

“Some of it may not be on Burning Man,” he explained. “Some of it may the culture that they are working within, some it may be training or some of it may be lack of training. I think that, to a certain extent, there are things that are unreported or underreported. But, I also think there are things that are over-reported or wrongly or out of the wrong context.”

Citing crime statistics, Vind challenged Allen’s allegations of “high levels of crime at the event.”

“It is just not true and our statistics bear it out,” he said. “Utilizing the verified data we have from PSCO and the BLM from 2010 through 2016, the event population grew 58 percent. However, person-on-person crime only increased by two — from 10 to 12 and drug citations increased only 34 percent which is well below the population increase.”

Vind added there were 12 person-on-person crimes at the 2017 event, the same number as in 2016. He criticized Allen for not completing his After Action Report until a year after the event.

We would have had 2017 data had Sheriff Allen followed through in a timely manner with his After Action Report for the 2017 event. Unfortunately, he delivered it at the late day of July 9, 2018,” Vind said in his statement.

[this is pretty rich given that BMorg’s own 2017 Annual Report was released in July 2018, and it appears the 2017 Afterburn Report came out at the same time]. Burning Man has a 100+ person year round workforce and a $50 million budget, much more than PCSO – Ed.]

Vind responded to Shield’s concerns over weapons at the event. In one case, law enforcement discovered an assault weapon, a handgun and a large amount of ammunition at Burning Man.

“With respect to the District Attorney’s comments about our Gate screening process: In a state where ‘everybody has a gun’ (as we were told by local law enforcement), there have been only a handful of firearms at the event over the past decade,” Vind said in the statement.

Allen and other county officials have said Burning Man, where nudity and illegal drugs are common, is no place for children. Vind countered the criticism with is own.

“Sheriff Allen repeatedly advocates the event be 21 and over despite our having demonstrated the event is tremendously safe for children,” he said. “We believe parents should be the judge of what’s best for their children, not the Sheriff. The Sheriff is entitled to his opinions. However, anecdotes are not date and repeating untruths does not make them true.”

[Last year children got to watch a man killing himself by jumping in a fire. It is not “tremendously safe for children”, it is a place where by attending you voluntarily accept the risk of serious injury or even death. How could anyone say that is “tremendously safe”? The Sheriff says “drugs are common at Burning Man”, BMorg says (basically) “the only drugs were the people who got citations, as the population grows less people are doing drugs”. Repeating untruths does not make them true…YMMV – Ed.]

Vind also said Shields suggestion to cap Burning Man attendance at a maximum of 50,000 participates “does little to address the issues we face now and in the future of the event.”

Allen believes the proposed 50,000 person cap is still too much for the county and the region. It has become increasingly difficult to recruit officers from other agencies to patrol Burning Man.

“I think even at 50,000 persons, it’s too much for this county to sustain in the long haul unless some things are vastly reworked within the settlement agreement,” he said. “Unless things improve for Pershing County and Pershing County law enforcement, 10,000 people would be the max that we could sustain over a long period of time. I think 100,000 people is beyond what Nevada could handle, not just northern Nevada.”

Burning Man critic Dave Skelton agrees the festival is already too big for Pershing County and, at 100,000 people, it could be too big for the BLM.

“We’re at the point where I don’t think it can get any bigger than what it is and I don’t think its sustainable now,” he said. “The BLM has indicated over the last two years, they have as many people out there as they can get their hands on. There are other things that happen this month.”

2 comments on “Sheriff Spat Escalates: “Misinformation”

  1. I was with a huge group of people sitting around waiting for the drone show to start. Everybody was peacefully and patiently waiting for the show to start and oh boy here come 6 LAW ENFORCEMENT personnel walking around in pairs looking around for people rolling joints. Trying so hard to find a “crime”.

    We absolutely do not need more cops inside Burning Man. The LAW ENFORCEMENT should just liaison with our rangers if they insist on more ENFORCEMENT

  2. Burners.me has a lot of energy to dig into Burning Man topics. We look forward to your FOIA BIA requests and reports of the 2018 Pershing/Nixon arrest and citation facts. Thanks!

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