BURNILEAKS: Sexual Assaults, Missing Kids and Violent Crime

Something that BMorg are always attempting to hush up are the details of the annual arrests. It used to be reported every year in the Reno Gazette-Journal, but since they appointed dedicated Burning Man beat reporter Jenny Kane that type of coverage has stopped. We have to try to piece the information together however we can.

I filed a FOIA request in January to get the 2017 arrest data from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, but so far they haven’t even acknowledged it. Thanks very much to our source DS who sent us the 2015, 2016, and some 2017 information below. The information we received includes the names of all people arrested in 2015 and 2017 and what they were charged with, compiled from the local paper. Don’t panic! We won’t be publishing the names. We hope to get more 2017 information soon.

The official reports confirm a shockingly large number of sexual assaults – 15 in 2015, 11 in 2016 – and way more missing children than were previously reported. The rapes, not prosecuted; the children (thankfully) all found. No wonder BMorg wanted this hushed up. Sexual offenders who fail to register are a recurring problem. Kidnapping, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, jailbreaks, and celebrities with armed bodyguards are all issues at Black Rock City. Don’t think that just because you’re “home”, that means you are safe – and don’t think for a moment that having a rule “no guns” means there are no guns there.

In fact, the Sheriff specifically states that he does not believe he can provide for the safety of Burners.

hot girl back

Image: Steemkr


BMorg vs PCSO

This has been an ongoing battle for many years. The cops think they should get more money as the festival gets bigger and goes for longer, BMorg thinks they should keep all the money for themselves to give to artists and make the world a better place. BMorg has big lawyers and political clout, they tell the Sheriff where to stick it, so to meet the budget required the Sheriff’s Office feels compelled to arrest and cite more Burners – to make their side of the argument stronger. “Look at all these criminals, our budget’s not big enough!”. Burners who pay $500-$1200 a ticket are thus used as pawns in an argument that people with $40 million per year of ticket money are having with local officials over 50 grand.

Screenshot 2018-05-07 14.13.52

Pershing County normally has a population of approximately 6,800 people within the County.  This population includes approximately 1,600 inmates incarcerated at the [gated community of the] Lovelock Correctional Center.  For this population, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has 13 full time Sworn Law Enforcement Deputies, including the Sheriff, to perform all of the duties statutorily mandated for the Sheriff’s Office.  This equates to approximately 1 Deputy for every 400 persons permanently residing in Pershing County, minus those incarcerated. 

During the approximate 10-12 days of the active portion of the Burning Man Festival, the population of just the Festival balloons to upwards of 80,000+ persons.  Still with only the 13 Sworn Full-Time Deputies within the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.  Based on this population, it would appear the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office would need to have approximately 200 Deputies to provide similar staffing for the visitors to the Burning Man Festival. However, Burning Man provides approximately 800+ ‘Black Rock Rangers’.  These employees of Burning Man are mostly made up of volunteers, some of whom have very limited training, to interact with the population and attempt to mitigate issues before they rise to the level of a Law Enforcement Response.  Some of the Rangers are trained enough to provide a force multiplication, to a limited extent, for Law Enforcement. 


The Problem, In a Few Charts

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2015 Report – Highlights

  • 1 death before the event
  • 15 sexual assaults reported
  • sex offender failed to register
  • 6 children went missing – all found
  • incident with nude man and his nude 4 year old child at adult event
  • 1 arrest for kidnapping
  • celebrities bringing armed bodyguards
  • an inmate tried to escape from the temporary jail
  • event ran for 9 days, previous discussions were around 7
  • big load on Sheriff’s office while construction/tear down happening
  • year end load processing all criminal cases, court dates etc
  • “the comradery [sic] which was built during this event will extend through the state” – from cops, Feds, agencies working together
  • integration with Humboldt Medical Team, who were kicked out for CrowdRX

 

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You are more likely to get a citation from the BLM than the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. The cops issued 143 citations and 175 verbal warnings. That makes 677 citations total for 2015, plus 43 arrests

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2015 Sheriff’s Report:

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2016 Sheriff’s Report – Highlights

The Sheriff actually says that after consulting with “entities” about Burning Man’s ability to deal with a critical incident like a mass casualty event, the results were “extremely dismal” and that he cannot in good conscience provide adequate safety to citizens attending the event.

Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.41.15

9 people including Burning Man organization employees were arrested on the site before the event began, charged with “possessing trafficking levels of narcotics”

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Other highlights

  • 46 arrrests (43 in 2015)
  • 152 citations (+326 BLM, total 478)
  • sex offenders failing to register
  • 11 sexual assaults reported
    • 1 arrest on playa
    • 2 reports after the festival, after victim returned to Reno and went to hospital for treatment – started by Reno PD
  • several reports of missing or lost children – not just the single Amber Alert we were told about, that closed exodus for 8 hours

2016 Sheriff’s Report

Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.21.24Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.21.33Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.21.45Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.21.58Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.22.08Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.22.16Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.22.30Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.22.42Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.22.53Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.23.06Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.23.13


 

2016 Burning Man Response

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Sheriff: Burning Man Could Be Terror Target

law enforcement camp

Police Compound at Burning Man. What’s that in the middle? Image: Trevor Hughes, USA Today

2016 ranger airport

No Chocotacos? Then we demand Art!

No Chocotacos? Then we demand Art! Thanks to our fan who sent this in

 

Allen suggested that Burning Man could be a target of terrorism.

“What better event to have a worldwide impact in Northern Nevada than Burning Man, especially with the ‘loose morals’ that some Burners live by,” Allen wrote in an email to the Reno Gazette-Journal, alluding to the nudity and alcohol and drug use at the event. “Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it is not possible. Remember, there was never a bomb at the Boston Marathon until there was. Nobody ever flew into a skyscraper until 9/11.

“If an event of that magnitude happened at this event, the soonest we could get resources to assist us in quelling the issue would be two hours. A lot can happen in that amount of time.”

Burning Man organizers have previously stated that they have a detailed mass casualty incident response plan, one that annually requires input from the organization and nearly all of the agencies that oversee emergency response at the event. The sheriff’s office, BLM, medical provider and other county and state agencies attend annual meetings to review the plan each year…

70 cops isn’t enough, he needs 100. And Chocotacos.

The Sheriff has made a few improvements since last year, and is hoping for BMOrg to do the same:

The sheriff’s office is also making some improvements on its own operations. A Burner tried to escape the on-site jail last year by jumping out of the trailer window. He was transported to a hospital by helicopter for treatment of serious cuts. Allen said the jail this year will have no windows as a result.

Additionally, the sheriff’s office is working on communications internally and with other agencies. Last year, a woman at Burning Man nearly died after a special reserve deputy injected her with a sedative as she resisted arrest, according to reports. The woman, who had been drinking, went into respiratory failure and had to be revived. As a result, Allen said, the sheriff’s office realized that contracts needed to better specify the responsibilities of his staff at the event.

As for communication between the playa and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office in Lovelock, the county seat, Allen hopes that the Internet access will be more consistent this year…

The BLM, which was criticized for overzealous tactics at last year’s Burn, said that it would discontinue the inspection of incoming postal packages at the event but it has not declared whether it will continue K-9 units and traffic stops at the event entry

[Source]

Anyone see any dogs? I have received a couple of reports so far.

Last Minute Medical Drama

pershing-county-sheriff-office-nv

Jenny Kane in the Reno Gazette Journal brings us news of some last minute tensions between Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen, who wants to use Humboldt General Hospital staff; and BMOrg, who are up in arms about a near-death last year that is just coming to light now.

A near-fatal medical incident last year has sparked renewed tension between Burning Man organizers and local authorities, none of whom can seem to agree on medical protocols for this year’s event, which begins Sunday.

Burning Man organizers last week asked Pershing County Sheriff’s Office and Humboldt General Hospital officials to meet and sign an agreement that organizers believe will help to prevent any further medical accidents. The agreement intends to clarify medical personnel’s responsibilities and procedures, Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said.

Humboldt General Hospital officials refused to attend the meeting, which was cancelled, and Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen refused to sign the agreement.

Allen told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the agreement was a roundabout attempt to prevent him from hiring Humboldt General Hospital paramedics, whom he wishes to hire as special reserve, or temporary, deputies for this year’s event.

“We remain unclear as to what protocols those (hospital) medics follow when administering care to patients. We do not have a commitment to standardized … hand-off of patient care should those (hospital) medics treat a patient,” wrote Burning Man executive Harley Dubois in an Aug. 17 email to the Humboldt General Hospital Board of Trustees.

So what is the incident that Harley is so upset about?

Organizers were outraged when CrowdRx employees informed them of an incident on Sept. 6, when a Humboldt General Hospital staff member injected a Burning Man patient with ketamine because she was resisting officers, Dubois wrote in the email to the hospital board. Ketamine is a general anesthetic sometimes used for sedation and pain management.

The participant subsequently went into respiratory failure twice and nearly died. Burning Man’s medical staff saved her life. Ketamine is a dangerous drug, especially when mixed with alcohol, and the participant – a 110-pound female – had been drinking,” Dubois wrote in an email to the Humboldt General Hospital Board of Trustees.

The hospital employee, emergency medical services Capt. Monique Rose, injected the woman with the drug while serving as a special reserve deputy under Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, according to contracts with the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. Rose, who remains employed at the hospital, declined comment on Tuesday. Chicago medical malpractice attorney believes that no wrong was done here.

Read the whole article at the Reno Gazette Journal – but it may not be the whole story.

Cutting their contract with Humboldt is one thing, but forcing the local sheriff to never deal with medical personnel he wants to work with sounds like Burning Man promoting disruption in the community, not harmony. These people have to live and work with each other all through the year, not just when Burners are there for a week partying participating in social engineering experiments.

Arrests, Citations Up

The new Pershing County Sheriff promised to get the arrest count up from last year, and he’s already delivered – 12 arrests and an unknown number of citations. At least one Burner has been reported sitting in a jail cell after dogs discovered all his stash in a search of his vehicle.

A highway patrol crackdown on I-80 also netted a lot of valuable citations for the under-funded police.

From the Reno Gazette Journal:

Pershing County Sheriff’s deputies have made about 12 arrests so far since Burning Man opened its gates Sunday morning, with some arrests made and citations issued even before the festival started.

“Its kind hard to track because we’ve had so many as we speak,” Pershing County Undersheriff Tom Bjerke said Tuesday. “There were some before that. Most of it at this point is for controlled substances and maybe battery witnessed by the officer.”

…Bjerke said he absolutely expected more arrests as the festival continues. Details on the arrests made were not immediately available.

“We’ve seen a much, much bigger crowd earlier in the event this year,” Bjerke said. “The information system is being overloaded because of a combination of factors.”

That includes bad communication between deputies at the playa and officers at the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.

“We don’t have the best equipment in the world here, and we’re trying to communicate with a lot of outdated stuff,” Bjerke said…“We’re making more arrests because we have more officers out there,” he said. “We’re issuing citations for personal dope and seizing the dope and going on with the event.

Most Burners arrested on drug-related charges “made a life mistake,” Bjerke said. Those mistakes shouldn’t take away from the event, he said.

“You have a choice a lot of the times to arrest someone or issue a citation and a lot of the times it’s easier to issue a citation.

[Source: RGJ]

Read the full story at the RGJ.

What sort of stuff are they trying to communicate with? Did their radios stop working? How hard can it be to write up a citation or put handcuffs on someone and drive them to jail in your car?

At least they have enough technology now to make life easier for their dogs.

[image published in Daily Mail removed at request of photo subject]

The Nevada Highway Patrol have been cracking down on Burners, too. The RGJ again:

A crackdown on speeding and traffic violations along Interstate 80 ended with 245 traffic stops from the California state line to Lovelock, the Nevada Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

Eleven state law enforcement agencies finished the three-day effort to eliminate fatalities across the 2,900 mile long Interstate 80 on Monday. Authorities focused on enforcing the I-80 corridor throughout the weekend.

A total of 119 drivers were cited from the California State line to Lovelock, NHP spokesman Trooper Duncan Dauber said in a news release.

Authorities conducted 245 traffic stops, gave 111 warnings and inspected 21 commercial vehicles. A total of 12 crashes were reported and two drivers were cited for seat belt violations.

Thousands of vehicles traveled across I-80 over the weekend to attend Burning Man, about 110 miles north of Fernley.

The Nevada Highway Patrol released the following statement on the increase in traffic:

“The goal of the I-80 Challenge is simple: saving lives. Saving lives starts with a change in driving behavior. With local media assisting in the distribution of the message and its importance, the weekend here in Northern Nevada concluded fatality free.”

Although this year’s I-80 Challenge has concluded, the state wants to reiterate that every day is an opportunity to focus on driving safe and staying alive.”

State wide, 18 crashes were reported. A total of 182 traffic citations were issued, plus 294 speeding citations. Authorities also arrested eight drivers on a driving under the influence charge and four on drug-related charges.

At a glance

Northern Nevada traffic stops:

Number of Crashes:  12

Number of Fatal Crashes:  0

Number of Fatalities:  0

Number of Speed Citations:  62

Number of Seat Belt Violations:  2

Number of Traffic Citations:  119

Number of Warnings:  111

Number of DUI Arrests:  7

Number of Drug Arrests:  0

Number of Stops:  245

Number of Commercial Vehicle Inspections:  21

Mileage Driven:  8057 miles

Statewide traffic stops:

Number of Crashes:  18

Number of Fatal Crashes:  0

Number of Fatalities:  0

Number of Speed Citations:  294

Number of Seat Belt Violations:  11

Number of Traffic Citations:  182

Number of Warnings:  359

Number of DUI Arrests:  8

Number of Drug Arrests:  4

Number of Stops:  840

Number of Commercial Vehicle Inspections:  21

Mileage Driven:  20105 miles

Source: Nevada Highway Patrol

[Source: Reno Gazette Journal]

 

There’s A New Sheriff In Town [Updates]

rangers k9

Image: Frank Giustino

For the last 4 years, the departing Pershing County Sheriff Machado has tried to find retired cops to work Black Rock City. This led to an amazingly low number of arrests last year:

1 sexual assault

4 drugs

1 domestic violence

2 trespassing

Unfortunately, the new Sheriff doesn’t see that as a good thing. He wants to replace the old-timers with regular duty cops, many of whom probably hate the idea of going to Burning Man. It sounds like most of the locals are not supportive –  and before you cry “but Burning Man brings so much into the Nevada economy!”, look at a map – almost none of that money is going to Pershing County, capital Lovelock.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

New Sheriff To Crack Down On Burning Man Crime

Burners, beware. There’s a new sheriff in Pershing County, and he intends to crack down on crime at this year’s event in the Black Rock Desert.

Image: Jerry Allen via RGJ

Image: Jerry Allen via RGJ

“We don’t have the personnel to issue citations to 70,000 naked people on the playa, but we will be upholding the law to the best of our ability,” said Jerry Allen, a 39-year-old former deputy who replaced former Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado in January.

“Burning Man brings nothing to Pershing County except for heartache,” Allen said.

Machado had a relatively Burner-friendly approach, according to many Burner accounts of law enforcement protocol in recent years. He hired retired officers for Burning Man patrols, according to Allen.

A U.S. Bureau of Land Management operational assessment of the 2014 event said Machado halted the prosecution of marijuana possession charges…

Allen, a 36-year resident of Pershing County, is based out of Lovelock, a town one-tenth the size of Burning Man’s temporary population that is three hours from the playa.

“They’re infamous for asking what do you do the rest of the 360 days of the year,” Allen said of Burning Man’s organizers.

The bucolic, conservative town shares its namesake with the nearby men’s medium-security prison and a World War II gunnery range, and the general population is uncomfortable with what goes on at Burning Man, especially considering children are out there, Allen said.

Allen said he will be enforcing all laws outside of restrictions on nudity while he and his deputies work at Burning Man.

“We don’t change the laws when Burning Man comes to town,” Allen said.

Burning Man organizers said they are not concerned by Allen’s staunch approach because far fewer Burners are breaking laws than Allen suspects.

We’ve been working with (Allen) since his election, and he’s been involved with all of the large coordination efforts,” said Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham. “It’s an ongoing process on education, but he hasn’t been out there for a few years, so he hasn’t seen the progress we’ve made in recent years.”

Typical BMOrg style – use the media to criticize the public officials for not knowing what they’re talking about.

A major crimes team consisting of both county-contracted officers and federal agents charged one individual with sexual assault, four with narcotic violations, one with domestic violence and two with trespassing, according to a BLM operational assessment of the 2014 event.

But the BLM’s assessment, published earlier this year, hints that Allen’s suspicions that crimes outnumber arrests are not entirely unfounded. The assessment states:

“Throughout the event, threshold levels of drug possession for adoption of a case for prosecution by PCSO (Pershing County Sheriff’s Office) were unclear and inconsistent. Early in the event, it was clearly established any cases involving the possession of marijuana would not be adopted by PCSO for prosecution. For all other controlled substances, the thresholds changed throughout the event. Conversely, threshold levels for federal prosecution were established well in advance of the event and provided in writing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

The BLM assessment, however, praised Machado in the same section:

“The success of BLM and Pershing County integration is largely attributed to PCSO Sheriff Richard Machado’s vision and leadership. … Sheriff Machado understood the value and efficiency of law enforcement integration.”

 

…Allen, who said that the hiring of retirees likely contributed to the low number of arrests last year and in years past, said enlisting his active-duty deputies and other active-duty officers would ensure that law enforcement officers are trained and prepared to take the appropriate actions needed to make Burning Man safe and secure.

The last time he worked the event, four years ago, was the last time the playa had active-duty officers, he said, recalling about three dozen arrests that year.

He also is increasing the number of officers at the Burn this year to 31, four more than last year, he said.

31 cops from Pershing County – and he wants more than triple the number. For 8 arrests in 8 days!

Were Burning Man to provide more funding to the county, Allen would also hire more officers, 100 more to be specific.

Burning Man taxes this county. We don’t have the services to provide them. Pretty much everything they buy, they buy outside,” Allen said. “I’m not saying we need to make gobs and gobs of money. I’m glad they can bring economic interest to Nevada, but they leave Pershing County high and dry.”

The Burning Man population-based stipend that the organization grants to Pershing County each year does not cover the county’s troubles, Allen said.

Last year, Pershing County received $240,000, Burning Man officials said, of which $196,000 went toward covering the costs of the sheriff’s office’s time and resources invested in Burning Man. Burning Man will be allotting about the same amount of money this year.

Burning Man also pays for the cost of prosecuting felony crimes related to the event, said Graham, the Burning Man spokesman. Additionally, the organization provides trailers, power, water, pumping, showers, toilets, radios, meals and fuel for the sheriff’s office on the playa.

Washoe County will receive $108,000 to send eight law enforcement officers to the event, along with additional services, Graham said.

While Allen believes that the stipends are unbalanced, considering the services that Pershing County provides and Washoe County does not, Burning Man said the comparison itself was unfair.

“The deputies of each county get paid different amounts year-round due to cost of living, union rules, etc. This differential has nothing to do with Burning Man. The fact that each county pays its deputies different amounts is not a Burning Man issue,” Graham said. “Comparing the contracts is apples and oranges for other reasons also. Some officers only work for a day, others for two weeks. Some work overtime; some don’t.” 

[Source]

Be careful out there, Burners. Remember that even though medical marijuana is now recognized in Nevada and they have reciprocity laws that recognize prescriptions from other states, this event takes place on Federal land and the Bureau of Land Management Rangers, FBI, and DEA are all Federal agents.

Image: Frank Giustino

Image: Frank Giustino

Here’s some of our earlier tips for dealing with LEOs:

Prepare for the Playa Police

24 Tips From Burners On Gate Safety

More Safety Tips

Keep Calm and Know What You’re Up Against

And some general tips:

Condition Alpha – Can You Handle The Blow

Surviving The Dust At Burning Man

Surviving Burning Man: First Timer’s Guide

Relationship Survival at Burning Man: What You Need To Know

 

 

[Update 8/23/15 8:08pm]

Thanks to Belinda for sharing this. Sheriff Jerry Allen has taken to social media to clarify his position:

Before too many people get riled up about this article. Remember I can only speak for the Sheriff’s Office, and not the entire county as a whole. I appreciate ‘Burner Weber’s comments, as a firm believer in the Constitution, and welcome all responses. I will also be on the playa for the festival, and am open to conversation then as well. However, please remember, as with most articles, some statements were exaggerated and some taken out of context to make a more controversial article. I have no intention on being ‘heavy-handed’. I am only wanting to provide for the safety and security of guests to our County, while ensuring the Laws of the State and County are adhered to-the same thing I was Elected to do for the entire County. I hope every attendee has a great and Safe Burn. Sheriff Jerry Allen

“I can only speak for the Sheriff’s Office, and not the entire county”…except that he did just win an election in the entire county.

“I have no intention of being heavy handed” – right, they just need to increase the number of cops from 27 to 100, because 4 people out of 70,000 were caught with drugs and 2 people were caught sneaking in (presumably that’s the only kind of trespass that the police need to deal with in Black Rock City). In 2010, back when it was all active duty personnel, the cops were quite literally heavy handed. At the Man burn, my friend got tackled to the ground and then three cops jumped on him, knee in the back, someone else pushing his head into the ground, full police brutality. He is not a big guy and was not resisting in any way, they had to strong arm him anyway – just because they suspected he was doing drugs. He didn’t have any drugs, he didn’t get charged with anything, but he got beat up and bruised, and lost a lot of enthusiasm for Burning Man.

It is not clear if the Pershing cops will be embedded in teams with BLM agents again this year.

It feels like we have come a long way since Burning Man settled their lawsuit with Pershing County, so we would encourage the new Sheriff Jerry Allen and his team to have a light touch with the hippies. SWAT team gear is not required. If you don’t want the event in your County, don’t punish the Burners for that – take it up with management.

 

[Update 8/23/15 8:28pm]

News for Nevada has a story from May 2015 that reveals many more details of what Sheriff Allen thinks of BMOrg. One interesting detail is that the single sexual assault charge was for a worker contracted to the event, who was still in the county jail 9 months after Burning Man ended.

Pershing County sheriff slams Burning Man settlement agreement

Allen says law enforcement restrictions illegal, funding inadequate

 

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen has publicly slammed big corporations before and last week added Black Rock City LLC, the organization behind Burning Man, to his list. He believes a 2013 agreement between BRC and the county improperly restricts his law enforcement authority at the massive festival.

“I’m concerned that we’re being bullied by Burning Man into being subservient to them and subservient to the BLM,” he said of the settlement agreement. “I’ve been assured by our legal counsel and (BRC’s) legal counsel that’s not what it is but the text of the settlement agreement would dictate otherwise.”

Allen said the agreement’s budget allowance for county law enforcement, based on peak population, means he will be shorthanded and law enforcement will be inadequate at the festival. He believes that he, rather than event organizers, should determine county law enforcement costs to be paid by BRC.

“It’s my belief that the whole settlement agreement is unconstitutional,” Allen said. “The county commissioners can’t sign an agreement that binds me to do anything. The only thing I’m subservient to the county commissioners for is budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, the budget we’re allowed to have (by the agreement) is going to be one of the limiting factors for this and every year’s event.”

Due to the county’s limited law enforcement personnel, Allen must recruit active-duty law enforcement officers from other county agencies to assist with this year’s Burning Man. Another agency has already turned down his request for help due to officer safety concerns, he said.

“I’ve had at least one county deny me patrolmen based on the fact that we will not have adequate personnel from the sheriff’s office out there and at this point we don’t know if we’ll have adequate medical coverage if an officer gets hurt,” Allen said.

Allen said he is particularly displeased with apparent restrictions in the 2013 settlement agreement on the county’s enforcement of certain state laws at Burning Man. A passage in the agreement appears to eliminate the county sheriff’s authority over alcohol use and the control of minors attending the event.

“County agrees that for the duration of this agreement, it shall not attempt to separately regulate any matters addressed by the BLM permit including without limitation the use of alcohol and presence of children at the event,” the agreement reads.

The agreement also limits the county’s law enforcement budget for Burning Man according to the event’s “peak population.” However, Allen said he and his deputies must deal with more than just the “burners” who purchase tickets, including thousands of BRC volunteers, contractors and children at the event. A worker charged with sexual assault at the 2014 event remains in custody at the county jail.

“The paid participants are the vast majority, but at a 70,000-person event, probably roughly 10,000 are not paid participants,” Allen said. “We are only budgeted according to what they say are paid participants. We don’t get any funding for those 20 percent extra people but we still deal with them. We still have a person in our jail on a charge of sexual assault who was a contractor at the event.”

BRC’s 2014 Site Occupancy Report lists daily numbers of paid participants plus daily totals of BRC staff, crew and workers at the event. The event peak totals were listed for Aug. 29, 2014, at 65,922 participants and 9,312 workers for a “total bodies on site” of 75,234 that day, according to BRC.

For a peak population of 70,000 to 79,000 at the event, the settlement agreement specifies a payment to the county of $275,000 for integrated law enforcement or $475,000 for separate law enforcement.

Allen is less than pleased with other parts of the settlement agreement, including BRC’s requirements for a press release from the sheriff within three days of the event and an After Action Report to BRC from the sheriff’s office within 14 days of the event. Burning Man is again being extended by two days in an attempt to reduce highway traffic before and after the event, but the settlement agreement describes the festival as an eight-day event. In addition, other assemblies on the playa sponsored by BRC during any two week period between June 1 and Labor Day are defined as Burning Man events.

Nudity is considered self-expression at the event, but Allen questioned why Burning Man participants should be exempted from state laws that are applied to all other visitors and residents of the county.

Allen said he won’t have enough deputies or jail cells to arrest and house thousands of violators but his deputies will respond to complaints of inappropriate behavior and/or obscenity involving minors.

“We will never have enough personnel to effectively police the nudity (at Burning Man),” he said. “However, taking a hands-off approach is not fair to the rest of the citizens of Pershing County. You can’t walk around nude anywhere else in this county without somebody contacting law enforcement. It’s not allowed here, it shouldn’t be allowed there. The rules are the same for everybody.

Undersheriff Tom Bjerke pointed out that exposing children to nudity is strictly prohibited in Nevada and those who violate state laws will be prosecuted. BRC now promotes the festival as family friendly, although in previous years organizers had discouraged attendance by minors, Bjerke said.

If Burning Man would make it an 18-years and over event, that would solve many issues out there,” Allen said. “So many law enforcement issues would go away. There would still be issues because their motto is ‘radical free expression’ and people interpret that to mean they can do whatever they want.”

In 2009, the FBI reported an average of 1.7 law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents patrol cities in the West. By that standard, Allen said he needs 136 deputies to adequately patrol a total of 80,000 or more participants, staff and contractors expected at Burning Man’s Black Rock City north of Gerlach.

[Note: this is an apples and oranges comparison, because there are also 150 BLM agents and 8 Washoe cops, bringing the total to at least 189. -Ed.]

Last year, the county sheriff had a staff of 24 deputies at the event, according to Allen.

“There’s enforcement issues and a huge limiting factor is the budget they (BRC) proposed with no justification for where that budget came from,” Allen said after last week’s meeting in Lovelock with BRC and the BLM. The next meeting between stakeholders was scheduled for this Tuesday in Reno.

Allen said partial law enforcement integration with the BLM is acceptable but only at his discretion on a case-by-case basis. If a major incident occurs, his deputies and the federal agents will back each other up but otherwise the two agencies have separate law enforcement objectives and procedures, he said.

“I’ve told BLM we will for the most part be partially integrated,” Allen said. “There are events out there that I can see partial integration would be a benefit but I can see other cases where being tied to the BLM would be a bad thing for the sheriff and the state. As the sheriff of Pershing County, I have to make sure I’m not setting bad precedents for the other sheriffs in the state.”

Allen said he would prefer no settlement agreement or cost negotiations with BRC regarding county law enforcement budgets and procedures. He cited a Washoe County law enforcement contract that dictates costs and policies at the event and believes that’s why Burning Man isn’t held in that county.

“Pershing County has set a terrible precedent for the state where Burning Man is concerned and it continues to get worse every year,” Allen said. “No other private entity that comes to the county gets to dictate terms on how county services will be provided or how money will change hands.”

By challenging BRC, Allen knows he’s up against powerful political clout and deep pockets. After previous settlement agreements with Pershing County were knocked down by former District Court Judge Richard Wagner in 2012, BRC sued the county then successfully lobbied state lawmakers for legislation (AB 374) giving county officials the option to exempt permitted public land events from county licensing fees and ordinances. Pershing County officials agreed to exempt Burning Man and the settlement agreement was signed in 2013, but BRC’s federal litigation against the county continues.

“Burning Man’s main hold over the county is they can out-money us in court.” Allen said. “The county festival ordinance was based on state law and when the county realized we have to abide by state law like any other county, Burning Man took exception to that and took us to federal court.”

Under the current settlement agreement with BRC, Allen said his law enforcement resources will be far below what he considers the minimum required to ensure public safety at the counterculture festival.

“I’m willing to make this statement on the record,” he said last week. “The way it stands now, I cannot adequately provide for the safety of participants at Burning Man because of the limitations of the settlement agreement, the limitations of our county’s resources and the fact that, at any given time, if we don’t abide by those terms, Burning Man is willing to take us back to federal court.”

Requests for comment from the BLM were not returned as of press time Wednesday morning.

 [Update 8/23/14 11:52pm]

Kudos to A Balanced Perspective for contributing this detailed update to the history, with information from Burning Man’s Afterburn reports.


 

Who Watches the Watchmen?

The links, and statements, are from the 2009, and 2010, Burning Man Afterburn Reports, within the Internet Archives.

The new Sheriff Allen laboured at Burning Man for the most horrible prior Sheriff Ron Skinner, in 2009, and 2010, but, he did not labour at Burning Man for the prior Sheriff Machado, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, whom was more professional in his actions.

The new Sheriff Allen of Pershing County, in replacement of the prior Sheriff Machado, desires to behave in a most unprofessional manner, similar of the prior Sheriff Ron Skinner, hiring his mates to abuse hippies, in regards of ‘The PCSO LEO team arrived on playa with what appeared to be a rather specific agenda. This agenda seemed to be fueled by their sense of morality and personal values, and they seemed intent upon imposing that set of values and moral judgments on the Burning Man community and the citizens of Black Rock City.’ in addendum of ‘The problem that had existed before, such as inadequate training, lack of experience of the sub-contracted individual LEOs’…

2009 Sheriff Ron Skinner, mate of the new Sheriff Jerry Allen

‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’

‘Pershing County is a rural Nevada county, has a small population, and has a total law enforcement force that is much smaller than the contingent of law enforcement that the PCSO seems compelled to have in Black Rock City. For the last several years, this problem has been addressed by having Washoe County off-duty LEOs working under contract for PCSO on playa. The state law enforcement Officer in Charge has, for all of these years, been a WCSO sergeant or lieutenant. Quoting from the 2008 LEAL Afterburn: “These relationships (with state law enforcement) are characterized by professionalism, timely and appropriate response and active and open communications.” The same cannot be said for Burning Man 2009..

PCSO decided this year to not contract with any WCSO LEOs. This created several significant problems. PCSO contracted with 40 to 50 different individual LEOs, who came mostly from other rural jurisdictions within the state of Nevada. These contract LEOs were bereft of experience in working the very unique environment of Black Rock City, they had no event-specific training before they arrived on playa, they received almost no event-specific training when they arrived on playa, and they usually only worked a day or two before being replaced by another inexperienced LEO. As might be expected, numerous problems arose in regards to understanding the dynamic aspects of the Burning Man event, communicating with Black Rock City citizens, and utilizing (or not utilizing) the extensive Burning Man infrastructure elements in place to assist law enforcement such as the Black Rock Rangers, the LEAL Team, the Emergency Services Department, the Burning Man dispatch and communications systems, etc. However, that was not the worst of it.

The PCSO LEO team arrived on playa with what appeared to be a rather specific agenda. This agenda seemed to be fueled by their sense of morality and personal values, and they seemed intent upon imposing that set of values and moral judgments on the Burning Man community and the citizens of Black Rock City. The specific incidences and issues will not be listed here, but it can be reported that the moral code they chose to impose was characterized by behaviors that could be described as consistent and by an attitude that could be characterized as fervent and zealous.’

2010

‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’

‘This paragraph is copied from the 2009 LEAL Afterburn: “Pershing County is a rural Nevada county, has a small population, and has a total law enforcement force that is much smaller than the contingent of law enforcement that the PCSO seems compelled to have in Black Rock City. For the last several years, this problem has been addressed by having Washoe County off-duty LEOs working under contract for PCSO on playa. The state law enforcement Officer in Charge has, for all of these years, been a WCSO sergeant or lieutenant. Quoting from the 2008 LEAL Afterburn— “These relationships (with state law enforcement) are characterized by professionalism, timely and appropriate response and active and open communications.” The same cannot be said in this 2009 Afterburn Report for Burning Man 2009.”

2010 was the second year that Pershing County, under Sheriff Ron Skinner, has chosen to attempt to manage the Burning Man event without outside counsel or assistance. The result continued to produce unsatisfactory results. The problem that had existed before, such as inadequate training, lack of experience of the sub-contracted individual LEOs, and lack of understanding of the Burning Man infrastructure (e.g., the Black Rock Rangers), as well as to how to utilize that infrastructure, continued.

It all began with a scheme by the PCSO to utilize horseback mounted patrols in Black Rock City. Their basic rationale was to be able to “move a crowd” during a riot. The fact that there has been nothing even resembling the smell of a riot in the 25-year history of Burning Man did not deter them from this position. A very strong set of objections then arose from Burning Man as well as other cooperating agencies such as the Nevada State Department of Health. Issues were horse poop on the playa, participant safety issues, and even safety issues for the horses themselves.

Because of these pressures, PCSO withdrew their intent to “test drive” the concept in Black Rock City early in the week, still insisting that they would keep the horses in reserve (they had already delivered them to a small farm close to the event). Then, evidently angered or embarrassed by this episode, PCSO, for the rest of the week, refused to attend the 3:15 Daily Cooperators Meeting attended by all of the agencies and law enforcement groups working the event. This created considerable communication and coordination problems. However, in fairness to the PCSO contingent, the Burning Man LEAL Team Manager was able to communicate with PCSO by journeying to the Law Enforcement compound and finding the PCSO personnel on duty.’

2011 Sheriff Richard Machado, with whom the new Sheriff Jerry Allen did not desire to labour at Burning Man

‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’
‘1) A new Sheriff, Rich Machado, was elected in Pershing County.
2) Pershing County’s new Sheriff created perhaps the best community-based policing effort ever seen at our event.
3) Pershing County law enforcement officers were competent, professional, acted as positive collaborators, exercised open communication and tact in their relationships, and, in general, behaved in the best interests of the citizens of Black Rock City. In addition, while they did all of that, they helped to keep the city safe as they made it secure.’

2012 Sheriff Machado
‘Pershing County Sheriff Office (PCSO) — State Law Enforcement’

‘1) Pershing County’s Sheriff created perhaps the best community-based policing effort ever seen at our event.’

2013 and 2014 Sheriff Machado.
The BMOrg jumped the shark, thus, they did not report on the most unprofessional police behaviour at Burning Man of 2013, or on the police behaviour at Burning Man of 2014, within their Afterburn Reports.
.
[Update 8/25/15 1pm]

The Sheriff has told a local news station that he doesn’t have the manpower for a crackdown, and once again the media has sensationalized a Burning Man story. YMMV

He’s going to cite people for smoking weed and bust them if they are naked and there is a child around.