Law Enforcement and Agency Liaison (LEAL) Team

The story of LEAL in 2005 is a story of relationships with law enforcement agencies, some enhanced and some damaged. As a liaison group, the LEAL team is only as good as the quality of relationships members maintain. Experience from 2005 illustrates both the potential for growth in relationship management and the downside of relationship deterioration.


The LEAL team had a good year overall on the playa. Continued efforts honed working relationships with the other Ranger departments, and many examples showed successful internal communication and coordination. A couple of LEAL newbies were a little rough around the edges, but this issue can be addressed in 2006 with training.

Outside Black Rock City Law Enforcement Agencies

LEAL’s relationship with Washoe County Sheriff Office (WCSO) continued to mature in 2005. Both sides have gained enough experience together that each has come to rely on the other’s perspective. For example, WCSO worked with LEAL within the limits of the law to help address some low-life ticket scalpers operating in Gerlach. Efforts will continue over the winter to help eliminate this problem.

The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) relationship also continued to flower in 2005. NHP is more a part of the total law enforcement team than ever before. A representative attended Daily Agency Meetings on playa and responded to requests for information and perspective relative to their areas of responsibility.

Pershing County Sheriff Office (PSCO)

Historically strained relationships with PCSO have improved, and this agency was probably the most communicative and cooperative group the LEAL team worked with on playa this year. The quality of this working relationship has improved for several reasons. For one, LEAL representatives communicated with PCSO extensively in the winter months to address their concerns about Burning Man 2005. This effort continued with action to respond to their requests (for example, informing theme camps with bars about avoiding underage drinkers). They were pleased with these efforts, and their previously expressed concerns became non-issues.

Second, the LEAL team made an express effort to be forthright and honest in all communications with PCSO. They came to appreciate the lack of any “game playing” and responded with open communications themselves. This experience illustrates how such positive relationships develop. An “instant breakthrough” resulted in 2005 after 6 years of diligent work.

Third, PCSO officers distinguished themselves on playa this year. In particular, they could not have exhibited more professionalism and sensitivity in cases such as domestic violence. These achievements received specific notice and were reported to all at the Daily Agency Meeting.

Finally, some real successes resulted from working with PCSO on playa this year. The Rangers and LEAL coordinated closely with PCSO on two separate occasions to apprehend two sexual assault suspects. These instances showed everyone just how far working relationships between law enforcement agencies and the Burning Man Project can reach.

Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement (BLM LE)

The hard fact about quality relationships is that they take a long time to build. Trust operates much like a bank account – deposits must be made over time and sudden withdrawals of large amounts increase risk. Unfortunately, the LEAL team’s relationship with BLM LE did not improve in 2005. Communication and coordination problems generated on the Burning Man side caused some communication and coordination problems with BLM LE. A series of winter meetings are planned to heal any communication impasses that may exist.

Submitted by:

Zac Bolan aka DisKo and Duane Hoover