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.”

Indians Promised “We Will Shut Down The Roads” – Now They Delivered [Updates]

Burning Man doesn’t even begin for another 5 days, but the chaos has already started.

By now you’ve probably heard that basically every single vehicle driving along the 447 near Nixon is being searched by the police, often with K-9 units.

The Reno Gazette-Journal had a story about it Burning Man Attendees Face Traffic Stops, Searches

Burning Man attendees face traffic stops, searches

Law enforcement officers from both the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe have been pulling over vehicles on their way to early Burning Man festivities in the Nevada desert. 

Bureau agents and tribal police were pulling over drivers passing through tribal land beginning last week and continuing this week. On Monday, about a half-dozen federal and tribal vehicles, some unmarked, were seen stopping vehicles primarily in Nixon, a tiny town halfway between Reno and the Burning Man site….There is one road, State Route 447, to and from the event; a large portion of that road goes through the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s land

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Council in the past month approved a memorandum of understanding that detailed the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ plans to have a law enforcement presence this year on the tribal land, according to tribal officials. The BIA  initially proposed the memorandum to the tribal police, which then presented the agreement to the council.

The tribe declined to provide the document, and the BIA has not responded to repeated calls for comment. It is unclear what the duration of the agreement is, and its purpose. 

Read the full story at the Reno Gazette Journal.

This is unprecedented in Burning Man history.

The RGJ for some reason did not make the connection between this new interference from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the cultural appropriation issues that were raised at the last Burning Man and through Burners’ involvement in the Standing Rock pipeline protests (see Dear Burners, Standing Rock is not Burning Man)

It was a really big story at the time, mostly in extremely heated social media discussions.

We Will Shut Down The Roads to Burning Man – Alarm at Cultural Appropriation

The Huffington Post had a suitably fawning puff piece on it – On Cultural Appropriation and Transformation at Burning Man – which sure looks like quickly produced damage control from the BMorg propaganda PR team. Then Caveat Magister hit the BJ with “Decommodification” and “Cultural Appropriation” – two great conversations that go great together. The usual self-congratulatory “we’re saving the world” stuff we’re used to from the official Voices of Burning Man.

What is it they say…“white man speak with forked tongue”? A couple of laissez-faire stories was not enough to put out this particular fire.

These people were seriously offended. Not just “hey fuck your fake headdress at Coachella” offended. More like “You have dishonored our ancestors and our entire tribe” offended.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 12.47.40

Read the rest of the comments here.

It sure looks like they made good on their threats. It is going to take a long, long time for the 80,000+ total participants to all make it into Black Rock City, if every single vehicle is getting searched. Be prepared.

Is this another case where the hundreds of year-round staff in San Francisco failed to pay sufficient respect to the objections of the local community? It might be far out in the desert, but Burning Man isn’t an island. It needs to be a net positive for everyone.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Org try to spin this to blame the Trump Administration rather than themselves. The proof will be in the pudding when Burning Man opens: is this treatment coming from all the Feds and cops, or just on the Indian territory?


[Update 8/22/18]

Statement from Burning Man. They are wondering why this is happening. They should read Burners.Me and they would know.

https://journal.burningman.org/2018/08/news/official-announcements/statement-on-police-activity-on-the-road-to-brc/

You might be wondering why this is all happening. So are we. We think the BIA’s efforts to target our community as we prepare for our annual gathering on public lands are misguided.

While BLM law enforcement has conducted aggressive traffic enforcement in past years on Gate Road in Black Rock City, this is the first time the Burning Man event has been targeted for an operation of this magnitude on public highways. The BIA stops appear to be pretextual and not based on actual violations of law.”

Predictably, many in the comments blame Trump. Only one person was brave enough to mention cultural appropriation (or maybe I caught their post before the censors did…)

[Source: burningman.org]

The previous head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs abruptly resigned in April, for an unspecified reason – it looks like another #metoo situation. President Trump proposed a woman, Tara Sweeney, for the position, but her confirmation was held up. She took the helm last week, in near-secrecy.

The recommendation of the BIA to the Tribal Council about Burning Man happened before last Thursday, so President Trump’s appointment of a new BIA head does not explain the present situation.

Up until a week ago the acting head of BIA was Darryl LaCounte:  

The top official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs has resigned suddenly after serving just six months, and a Billings official will take over, the agency said Friday. 

The BIA confirmed to The Gazette on Friday that Bryan Rice, the agency’s director, resigned on April 24.

BIA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda informed agency employees by email Thursday, which BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling released Friday.

Darling did not give a reason for Rice’s departure. 

Darryl LaCounte, the regional BIA director based in Billings, will take over as acting BIA director.

“He is an experienced leader with vast organizational knowledge to maintain a smooth transition for our BIA employees and the tribal nations we serve,” Darling said of LaCounte in an emailed statement.

LaCounte started with the BIA in 1988 as an oil and gas specialist. He moved up through several positions in the Billings office and in 2014 became the Rocky Mountain regional director.

The exiting Rice, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, took over as director six months ago. He was previously a director of forest management for the U.S. Forest Service and a deputy director for the BIA’s Office of Trust Services.

[Source: Billings Gazette]

LaCounte is from Billings, Montana – where Republicans have won every election since 1996, and Trump won in 2016 with a 20% margin. Was LaCounte trying to make a big splash while he temporarily had the reins of power? Or was this a Machiavellian “Black Prince” situation, where someone was sent in to do the dirty work and be the “hated Prince”, only to then be replaced by the “good Prince?

 


[Update 8/23/18]

There are a bunch of threads at r/BurningMan with the latest updates on the Nixon situation.

The BJ comments had a conspiracy theory worth considering: that this is BIA revenge on the Paiute for bringing all those Burners to Standing Rock who disrespected the broader culture and caused concern amongst the LEO community:

[Source: burningman.org]

How To Deal With Cops At Burning Man: 2018 Edition

Thanks to Mark Atwood for doing this once again. We’re not lawyers, this is not legal advice. Be careful out there.

Feel free to print out, share, and repost. This work is licensed under the CC-BY-4.0. I am not a lawyer. This document is not legal advice. If you are ticketed, cited, or arrested, consult with your attorney.


How to deal with cops at Burning Man (2018 update)

by Mark Atwood

* Do not consent to a search.

Never consent to a search. Say the phrase “I do not consent to a search.”

The cops are trained to make you flustered and to “take command” of the situation. Or they can be “polite”: “Mind if we take a look around?” Yes, you mind. “I do not consent to a search.”

Even if you have nothing for them to find, always say “I do not consent to a search.”

Never consent to a search of your body, of your clothing, of your possessions, of your car, of your truck, of your trailer, of your RV, of your tent, or of your camp. Never consent to the search of anyone else’s property.

They can ask the other people in your group or in your car, not just the driver or leader. “Mind if we take a look?” You should all sing the same song: “I do not consent to a search.”

Even if they threaten you with arrest or if threaten to bring a sniffing dog, continue to say “I do not consent to a search”. Even while they are searching you or your stuff, continue to say it. “I do not consent to a search”.

They may search you anyway. Once they start, they will trash all your stuff and dump it out on the playa. Do not give them consent once they start. They will not be more gentle with your stuff if you give them consent.

* Being Questioned.

Cops can ask you questions.

They may say things like “We’re just talking”, or “What do you think of …?”, or “Can you help us out?”

You do not have to answer their questions, and you probably shouldn’t.

They can ask you where your camp is, and who you are camping with. You don’t have to tell them, and you probably shouldn’t.

* Recreational drugs.

Never answer any questions about recreational drugs.

Remember, you never take drugs, you never carry drugs, you never supply drugs, you have no idea where to get drugs, you do not want any drugs, and you do not know anyone who does.

That includes cannabis in any form, in any amount. Cannabis is still not legal on BLM land, even for medical use. Having a medical card from any state is not a defense. The Nevada personal use possession law is not a defense.

If you have a legal prescription to a Schedule II drug such as Adderall, Ritalin, OxyContin, or Methadone, keep your pills in their correct prescription bottle and locked somewhere safe. If you need to carry any such prescription drugs with you, ask your pharmacist for a small bottle to keep just one day’s supply in, and keep that in your pocket. You can be charged if you cannot prove you have a legal prescription.

If the cops ask you details about your prescription, you do not have to answer them, and you probably shouldn’t. The only things they are lawfully allowed to ask will be printed on the prescription bottle.

* Do not lead them to your camp.

They may try to make you lead them to your camp.

They can be very commanding and matter of fact about it. They may say “We are going to your camp.” They will make it sound as if you have no choice. You do have a choice, and you are going to chose to not to lead them to your camp. Never lead them to your camp.

If they really really insist on you leading them somewhere, then lead them to a Black Rock Ranger outpost.

* Keep your tent closed.

Always keep your tent zipped closed when you are not in it. If possible, use opaque screens or sheets to block transparent window screens, so there is no line of sight into your tent. Reflective panels and reflective cloth are also good for keeping the heat of the sun out of your tent.

You may want to use a luggage lock to lock the zipper of your tent when you are not in it. If your tent is zipped shut, they are supposed to need a warrant to open it, or they are supposed to need your consent. They probably won’t have a warrant, and you are not going to give them your consent, remember? “I do not consent to a search.” They may search your tent anyway. Do not give them consent once they start. Once they start, they will probably trash your stuff, no matter what you say.

* Your name and your ID.

If they ever stop you, you do have to tell them your correct “wallet name” as it is printed on your official ID. Tell them your name as it is printed on your official ID, driver’s license, or passport. You do not have to voluntarily show them your ID if they ask to see it. You especially do not have to go to your camp to get your ID for them.

If you are a not a US citizen and are visiting on a visa waiver program, you do not have to carry your passport with you. If you are a resident alien on a visa (e.g. you have a “green card”), you do have to carry your green card with you. Sorry about that.

* Being Detained, or “Am I free to go?”.

The magic phrase is: “Am I free to go?”

Keep saying it. As soon as they say “yes”, walk away immediately and without another word. Do not run, walk.

If they write you a ticket, you must take it. Put it in your pocket, and then you say “Am I free to go?”

If they ever say you are not free to go, you say “Am I being arrested?”. If they say “no you are not being arrested”, you say again “Am I free to go?”. Keep it up as many times as necessary. Yes, it will sound like a stupid kid game, like “stop copying me”, but the game is very real with very real stakes, and this is their game to win, and yours to lose.

* Being Arrested.

If they ever say anything like “you are under arrest”, or ever do anything to make you think you are being arrested, such as them restraining you in any way, you must immediately say the following magic phrase (memorize it!): “I do not consent to any search. I hereby invoke my right to remain silent. I want to speak to my attorney.” And then you SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Do not say anything at all about your arrest until you are talking in private with your attorney. Not with those cops, not with any other cops, not with any onlookers, not with anyone else who was arrested, not with anyone who is being held with you. Not with your campmates, or with your friends, or even with your family. Even your spouse. Assume all police cars, transport vans, and cells are bugged. Assume the cops will lie about what you say to them. Assume everyone you meet while you are being held will testify against you and that will lie about what you say to them. Your best defense will be being able to say you never said anything to anyone. You invoked your right to remain silent. Use it.

* Alcohol.

The camps with open bars that are giving away booze may ask to see your ID to verify you are older than 21. You don’t have to show it to them, but they don’t have to give you free booze either.

The state liquor cops will be there trying to sting your camp. If you are giving away booze, even if it’s only beer or wine, and the person you are about to give it to looks like they could possibly be under 21, you should verify their age by checking their ID.

Even if your camp is not running a public bar, random people will walk into your camp and ask for booze. You will almost certainly have an under-21 plainclothes liquor cop walk into your camp at least once during the week, to try to sting you.

An alcohol service bust is an expensive way to ruin your burn for your entire camp.

* Who Watches the Watchmen?

While the cops are dealing with you, you need to be memorizing the color and design of their uniforms and memorizing their name tags. They are supposed to be wearing visible name tags while in uniform. Yeah, right.

As soon as you get away from the cops, promptly go to Center Camp or to a Black Rock Ranger outpost to fill out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form and immediately turn it in.

If you personally with your own eyes see the cops detaining anyone, arresting anyone, or searching anyone or anything, do the same thing: memorize what you can and then fill out and turn in a Law Enforcement Feedback Form as soon as you can.

Each morning, all the feedback forms are read out loud in a meeting with the with the police leadership and the event leadership.

If the cops dump your stuff from your car, trailer, tent, or pockets out onto the playa ground, make sure you describe that in the feedback form. The Bureau of Land Management leadership have opinions about the cops trashing the playa.

* Your camera.

When you see the cops, you may choose to use your camera to record them. The Judiciary at all levels has clearly stated that everyone, including you, has the right to record the police. Cops hate it, but too bad.

If a cop tell you to turn off your camera, keep recording. If they threaten to arrest you for recording, keep recording.

They cannot lawfully order you to stop recording. They cannot lawfully order you or anyone else to delete photos or video. They cannot lawfully delete any photos or video themselves. If they do, they themselves are knowingly breaking the law and that will be very useful in court.

If you ever see a cop order anyone to stop recording or to delete anything, make sure that goes on the Law Enforcement Feedback Form.

While you are recording them, never get in their way, and stay back at least 35 feet / 10 meters.

* “Undercover” cops.

The cops claim there are very few “undercover” cops at the event. This is a very carefully nuanced untruth.

There are cops at the event who are not “undercover” but instead are “plain clothes”. This means that instead of wearing uniforms or visible badges they are dressed up to look like burners.

They do not have to tell you they are cops when you ask them. You will not be able to “sense” that they are cops. Some of them have been doing this every year for more years than you have come to the event yourself.

People have been busted by a cop who was wearing only sparkles and a miniskirt. Cops have been seen standing nearly naked on top of speakers next to mainstages, pointing out the use of cannibus to uniformed cops circling the dance floor.

If someone you do not know asks for drugs or offers to trade you anything for drugs, they are a cop. If you met them this year at this Burn, you do not know them. If someone sits down on a couch next to you, or in an art car next to you, and gets around to asking about drugs, they are a cop.

If you met these two girls a few days ago looking at art out in deep playa, and they are really cute, and they went out dancing with you last night, and they just suggested that if you can supply some “favors”, you all can “party together” in your tent, they are cops. No, really, yes, she and her girlfriend both are cops, and her coworkers are eagerly standing by to ruin your whole year.

* What if I need “Police Services”?

What if you are lost? Or a camp mate is lost? Or your child is lost? Or you have found a lost child? Or you have found someone who is injured or who is unable to take care of themselves? What if you are assaulted? What if something has been stolen? What if someone is hurt? What if you find someone who is dangerously out of sorts? What if you just can’t even?

Go to a BLACK ROCK RANGER or to an ESD VOLUNTEER. The Rangers or ESD will help deal with the situation. If the cops are actually needed, the Rangers or ESD can summon the cops and can deal with the cops. If the cops are not needed, then the Rangers or ESD can summon the right help for you.

Know what the Black Rock Ranger uniform is, and how it’s different from the cop uniforms. Rangers wear khaki shirts and khaki hats with the Burning Man logo on their hats, and on their chests, and on their backs, and on their vehicles. ESD have yellow shirts that say “Emergency Services” on them.

Black Rock Rangers are not cops. They really are there to help you, no kidding.

Have a great Burn!

Sheriff Asks Org To Pony Up for More Money and Officers

The Pershing County Sheriff’s office have published their Post Mission Synopsis report for 2017. It’s reproduced at the end of this article, along with a couple of appendices – one which gives an idea of where incidents occurred, which some Burners may find interesting.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen. Image: News4Nevada

There was some coverage of this story at the Reno Gazette Journal “Tensions rise between Burning Man and law enforcement, again”, but it’s light on details. We’ve re-blogged a more detailed story from the Lovelock Review Miner in this post. Huge thanks to our source for sending this in.

Some Highlights

Sheriff Allen agrees with me and the USPTO that it’s a festival.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen the size of the annual drug haul, something I’m sure many Burners have been curious about:

grams ounces pounds
marijuana > 639 22.82 1.43
psilocybin > 818 29.21 1.83
Ketamine > 120 4.29
Methamphetamine 13.5
Cocaine > 231 8.25
MDMA > 334 11.93
doses
LSD > 217

It’s interesting to see the population changes.

This is the essence of the Sheriff’s problems with the festival:

He brings up a specific incident where Burning Man didn’t want a particular person to attend a meeting, so they went straight to the Director in Washington DC rather than raising their objections with the Sheriff’s office.

One wonders who this objectionable individual was. Dan Love? Gene Siedlitz? CIA? DEA? FBI? CDC? Humboldt General?

The Sheriff is highly suspicious of the population numbers provided by the Org.

Later in the report he mentions that the gate count may not include all the people arriving via the airline and Burner Express bus. The numbers are key because peak population above 69,999 brings them to a higher payment level, from $240,000 to $275,000.

Reading further, we have BMorg employees wielding weapons in a car chase…

And an RV full of coke and a loaded gun in early entry:

We have already covered the arrest statistics 2017 Crime Scorecard, here is the summary:

“We continue to have negative enforcement” – is this police speak for laws are broken everywhere?

We wish Sheriff Allen luck in his quest to squeeze more money from the $45 million annual event. His requests seem pretty reasonable – the cost of one junket regional festival visit for one BMorg staffer – and his office has to deal with the consequences of Burning Man all year round, not just for a week.

Re-blogged from the Lovelock Review Miner:


Sheriff submits Burning Man budget request

Debra Reid, News4Nevada

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 1:00 AM

Sheriff Jerry Allen submitted his law enforcement budget for next month’s Burning Man while challenging county leaders to “dispose of” the agreement that restricts the budget. Allen is concerned that public safety is at risk due to inadequate county law enforcement at the event.

The 2013 Settlement Agreement between Pershing County and festival organizer Black Rock City, LLC, limits the private group’s payments to the county for law enforcement, criminal prosecution and other services impacted by the massive festival. The agreement sets the reimbursements according to festival attendance and law enforcement command status.

Allen limited his spending as required in the 10-year agreement. His budget request is based on a less desirable but lower cost “integrated” command with the BLM and this year’s expected attendance by 70,000 to 79,999 ticket-holders. The number still doesn’t include the thousands of staff, volunteers and contractors on playa for weeks before and after the nine day event.

With the population and inflation factored in, BRC’s $275,000 base payment pencils out to a total of $299,201.92 that should be paid to the county, according to Allen. Of that, $252,462.88 will cover payroll for up to 24 law enforcement officers and jail personnel plus supplies and permanent infrastructure needed during the event including CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) interface, body cameras, trailers and a possible air conditioning unit for off-duty personnel.

That leaves $46,738.74 left over for the county courts and administrative services needed for the event according to Allen’s budget request. Members of the county commission are reviewing the proposal and may vote to either approve or reject it at their next meeting on July 18.

Sheriff Allen also handed out his Post Mission Synopsis on the 2017 Burning Man event. The report explains why, in his opinion, the 2013 Settlement Agreement between Pershing County and BRC shortchanges county taxpayers and event participants.

“The Burning Man Festival has, for several years, far exceeded the resources of not only Pershing County, but the Law Enforcement resources of Northern Nevada as a whole. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has had to ‘contract’ with several different Law Enforcement Officers within the State to provide some semblance of law enforcement expected by the participants. This endeavor is becoming increasingly difficult to perform as the population of BRC continues to increase and the payment to Pershing County remains relatively stagnant.”

In 2019, the BLM may issue a ten-year Special Recreation Permit allowing the Black Rock City population to reach 100,000 including ticket-holders, staff, volunteers and contractors. As the festival grows, Allen says a sheriff’s deputy dedicated year-round to the event will be needed.

“This Festival has increased in magnitude to the extent that Pershing County should hire a Deputy to provide for planning, logistics and execution of the plan for this Festival as well as provide for continued investigations,” he said. “The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office continues to receive calls for service long after the active portion of the Festival has concluded.”
Property and personal crime reports after the event, including minor thefts and sexual assault, must be investigated even though the evidence has vanished along with the event, Allen said.

CRIME STATS

Allen’s written report was delivered long after the deadline specified in the 2013 agreement.

“The Sheriff shall, within fourteen days after the Event, provide an After-Action Report. If the information for the AAR is not yet available at that time, then the Sheriff shall provide the information as soon as it becomes available,” states the settlement agreement.

Allen said he’s been busy with important PCSO matters, such as the vacancies for two sheriff’s deputies, but he did comply with BRC’s request for crime statistics on citations, arrests and the “actual expenses incurred in connection to the event” during the 2017 Burning Man event.

Allen’s report lists 57 arrests at the 2017 festival, an increase of 11 arrests from the 2016 event. Burners were arrested for FTA (failure to appear) warrants, sexual assault, domestic battery, possession of illegal controlled substances and trespassing.

There was a total of 125 misdemeanor citations for assault, battery, reckless driving with 121 of those citations for minor illegal drug possession “not amounting to sales or trafficking.”

Drugs seized by the PCSO at the 2017 festival included more than 639 grams of marijuana, 818 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, over 120 grams of ketamine, 13.5 grams of methamphetamine, more than 231 grams of cocaine, over 334 grams of MDMA and more than 217 doses of LSD.

POPULATION IN DOUBT

Allen says he’s skeptical of Black Rock City’s daily population reports issued electronically by Ticket Fly. The number of ticket-holders is restricted by the BLM’s Special Recreation Permit.

“I am highly suspicious of these population numbers as there is no independent verification or audit system in place to perform a quality control check,” Allen says. “From previous Festivals, it appears to the naked eye, as if BRC is well beyond the reported numbers, but at this time there is no way to verify this…There is no reason for BRC to report any number above 70,000 paid participants, due to possible consequences from both PCSO and the BLM.”

Allen said the peak population reported at one point in the 2017 event was above the permitted level of 79,000 and, as a result, Pershing County should be paid more money for the event.

“It is my recommendation that the Pershing County Board of Commissioners submit a bill to BRC for the additional $35,000 plus CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the additional monies as outlined in the 2013 Settlement Agreement,” Allen said in his synopsis.

 

GUN CONTROL

Firearms are not allowed inside the festival by BRC or BLM but, in 2017, a loaded rifle was discovered during set-up and four days before the gates opened, Allen said. The weapon was found in a motorhome where a large amount of cocaine was also discovered by BLM officers. The vehicle had supposedly been searched for weapons and drugs by BRC gate personnel.

“We were contacted by BLM to assist with a traffic stop,” Allen states. “While we were on scene, a rifle was also found with a round in the chamber. This vehicle was allowed into the Festival early as a part of an agreement between BRC and BLM to allow ‘early entry’ participants to assist in setting up the city’s many amenities and large art structures.”

For Allen, the incident indicates that more county law enforcement is needed before and after the event and BRC should hire professional gatekeepers to search for weapons and drugs.

“These types of incidents could also be remedied by requiring BRC to hire an independent company to provide for proper screening of persons and vehicles,” Allen states in his report.

In 2017, a brush fire south of Gerlach created a potential crisis when it forced temporary closure of Highway 447, the primary ground emergency access into and out of the Burning Man area.

“The closing of Hwy 447 shut off the main artery to get people off the playa in the event of an emergency or evacuation,” Allen says. “It also had the potential to significantly delay or stop necessary resources from reaching the playa in case of an emergency.”

Allen said a permanent mountaintop repeater is needed for communications between the PCSO in Lovelock and sheriff’s deputies on playa and, in case of a major emergency at the event, inter-agency radio communication needs improvement between PCSO, BLM, NHP and WCSO.

Funding is needed for “a minimum of 40 Deputies per shift” according to Allen. He also suggested that Pershing County and BRC “dispose of the 2013 Settlement Agreement” and work out a new agreement or adopt a cost-recovery system such as that used by the BLM.

BEHIND THE SCENES

In his synopsis, Allen revealed some of the sources of ongoing tension between the PCSO and BRC. Planning for the event requires numerous meetings throughout the year between various agencies including the PCSO, BLM, BRC, NHP and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. One meeting was cancelled after it started due to what BRC considered an unwelcome participant.

“Planning became very difficult however, when a scheduled meeting was cancelled at the last minute (after the meeting was to have started) by representatives of BRC due to one invitee BRC did not approve of,” Allen states. “This issue was taken by BRC to the BLM director level in Washington D.C. without first attempting to rectify this situation locally and reschedule the meeting. This action further strained the tenuous relationship between BRC and PCSO.”

Allen said local BLM and BRC officials with decision-making authority would expedite the planning process and planning meetings should take place in the county that hosts the event.

“I would offer a suggestion to have all Cooperators meetings in the Lovelock area, since Pershing County is the County in which this Festival actually takes place. This would allow for more participation from other Pershing County entities which are vital for this Festival to operate,” Allen says in his synopsis. “It would be nice to have BRC become accustomed to the area as well as the resources available within Pershing County.”


Here is Sheriff Jerry Allen’s report.

PCSO 2017 Burning Man PMS without Apendixs
Apendix B Cases PCSO 2017 PMS
Apendix D graphs PCSO 2017 PMS
Apendix D Drugs grams PCSO 2017 PMS

 

2017 Crime Scorecard

Crime Statistics for previous years:

2016   2015   2014   2013   2012


Thanks to Anonymous Burner who sent this in on January 1st – not a day I am usually reading much email, so it slipped through the cracks. Thank you for the reminder, and thanks to One Who Wants To Know for asking if I’d run out of things to complain about – sometimes a bit of motivation helps, particularly in these dark days of Facebook shadow-banning.

Pershing County are not the biggest fans of Burning Man, as you will see from the Lovelock Review-Miner article below. A quarter of the county’s population are incarcerated in the correctional facility, including (until just recently) OJ “The Juice” Simpson.

Most of the time, Pershing County is a safe place with a low crime rate. But in August and September, their crime rate spikes to amongst the worst in the country. Burners make the whole County look bad. Burners might think “well they should be happy to have us, we are great for the economy” but this is only true for Washoe County, where Reno is.

We used to be able to read about arrests at Burning Man in the Reno Gazette-Journal, but ever since they appointed  Jenny Kane (of Chocotaco scoop fame) as their dedicated Burning Man beat reporter, stories like this seem to get hushed up.

Pershing County smashed through all previous records with a whopping 179 arrests in August and September 2017. Other than FOIA, there is no way to tell how many were for Burners, but based on the average for the remaining months of 4.9 we can safely assume it is 97%.

2017 pershing county unified crime report

What sort of things were Burners getting up to? 1 forcible rape, 2 larceny (theft), 6 arson…the rest drugs – selling them, or possessing hard drugs. The Sheriff says they have confiscated guns from within Black Rock City and are concerned that the event organizers are not able to prevent guns coming in.

2017 pershing county crime types

Looks pretty safe for stoners, you’re more likely to get a citation than an arrest. Be careful, though: even though marijuana is legal in Nevada, Burning Man takes place on Federal land – and we all know how much Attorney General Jeff “Smoke” Sessions loves weed.

The Cannabist: Can You Bring Weed To Burning Man?

Pershing County wants more money to cover the costs, which they incur longer than just for the period the gates are open. In a case of Allen vs Allen, BMorg says “$182,221 is enough” – ie, stick it where the sun don’t shine, Sheriff!

Burning Man’s spin-meisters made the argument that the legalization of weed would lead to reduced costs for the Pershing County’s Sheriffs Office. Looks like the cops responded with a record number of arrests – almost quadruple last year’s record setting 46, which was up 600% on the year before.

Once again, BMorg tries to pinch pennies from the LEOs, and the LEOs take it out on the Burners. A familiar pattern by now in this decade-long dispute.


From the Lovelock Review Monitor, story by Debra Reid (emphasis ours):

BLM requests public input on Burning Man

Thursday, December 28, 2017 1:00 AM

Pershing County residents and other concerned citizens are reminded that January 15, 2018 is the Bureau of Land Management’s deadline for public comment on the Burning Man festival.

The BLM must gather public input as it prepares an Environmental Impact Statement on the event. The EIS is required before the agency can issue another ten year Special Recreation Permit for the festival in the spring of 2019. The current SRP expires after the 2018 festival.

Black Rock City LLC, organizer of the event, is requesting that the new SRP allow expansions beyond the current maximum of 70,000 paid participants to a maximum population from 80,000 to 100,000 people on the playa, including ticket-holders, staff, contractors and volunteers.

To accommodate the larger crowd, BRC is also asking the BLM to expand the closure area. Some of the festival’s main attractions are the burning of massive structures, including a giant wooden effigy during the climax of the event. One Burning Man participant died at the 2017 event after he broke through multiple lines of security and leaped into the conflagration.

Nudity and drugs are not uncommon, making the event controversial in a conservative, rural county. Urban areas in Washoe and Lyon County benefit economically from the event while Pershing County supplies much of the law enforcement, incarceration and other services.

The 2013 Comprehensive Festival Ordinance Waiver, Law Enforcement and Settlement Agreement between BRC and Pershing County limits BRC’s costs for county services according to event attendance and integrated versus separate law enforcement command.

The ten-year agreement has become an ongoing source of contention between county law enforcement and festival officials. Even as the festival expands in 2019 and beyond, law enforcement payments to the county are restricted until the agreement expires in 2023.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen contends that the festival requires year-round attention and much more than eight days of county law enforcement services due to accidents and crime that occur during the weeks of set up, tear down and clean up before and after the event.

BRC officials respond that law enforcement activities outside the eight day festival are not included in the settlement agreement and are part of the normal costs of county government.

BRC has refused to pay an invoice for $39,959.20 submitted to the county by Sheriff Allen for county law enforcement costs due to activities before and after the 2016 Burning Man event. BRC General Counsel Raymond Allen argued that those expenses were covered in a total payment to the county of $243,964.92, per the settlement agreement.

“The decision to allocate $182,221.83 to the Sheriff out of the total amount that BRC paid to the County in 2016 was an exercise of the County’s sole and absolute discretion under Section 4.1 of the Agreement and was presumably based on what the Commissioners determined to be the cost of supplying ‘reasonable law enforcement services needed’ for the 2016 event,” Ray Allen stated in a letter to the county. “If the Sheriff’s Office disagreed with the Commission and decided to spend more than the amount that was allocated by the Commission, that decision had no effect whatsoever on BRC’s payment obligations under the Agreement.”

Sheriff Allen and other county law enforcement officials say they have confiscated guns inside the festival and question the ability of BRC’s gatekeepers to keep weapons out of the event.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada, that should reduce citations issued at the event, Burning Man Political Affairs Manager Marnee Benson said in a letter to the county.

In 2016, 62 of the 152 PCSO citations issued in connection with the Burning Man event were for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana,” Benson stated in a February 1, 2017 letter.

“That is to say, 41 percent of Pershing’s citations were issued for conduct that is now legal in Nevada. We expect this will free up a significant amount of time and budget for PCSO in 2017.” [the arrest statistics for 2017 indicate otherwise – Ed.]

In his written comments on the event submitted to the BLM, Lovelock resident David Skelton said if Burning Man expands, it will be an increasing burden on Pershing County taxpayers.

As Burning Man provides no economic benefit to Pershing County, to the contrary, if Burning Man left Pershing County and went elsewhere, there would then be an economic benefit, due to cost reduction,” Skelton said. “There are multiple locations the event can be held on either public or private lands outside of Pershing County.”

Written comments on the Burning Man SRP should be emailed by Jan. 15, 2018 to blm_nv_burningmaneis@blm.gov or mailed to the following address:

Attention: Burning Man Event SRP EIS

BLM Winnemucca District Office, 5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd., Winnemucca, NV 89445.