The story of Law Enforcement and Agency Liaison (LEAL) at Burning Man 2006 is one of enhanced relationships and increased communications quality. LEAL functions only as well as LEAL communicates with the various law enforcement bodies and agencies that work with the Burning Man Project. Law Enforcement (LE) issues on playa and during the event tend to depend on the nature of the situation and incident as to which agency is involved (for example, criminal behavior issues involve Nevada state law and thus involve Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, PCSO). 2006 saw several years of ground work in relationship quality and relationship management come to fruition.
Overall and Burning Man Internal
2006 was the LEAL Team’s best year ever on playa. Things went almost seamlessly in regards to working with other Ranger departments as well as communicating with other Burning Man departments. Three new members joined the LEAL Team this year and each had to go through multiple LEAL mentoring shifts and “testing under fire” to see how they worked with Law Enforcement personnel in real-time LEAL situations on playa. All came through with flying colors and we were able to provide LEAL coverage 24/7 for the duration of Burning Man 2006.
Pershing County Sheriff’s Office
In the 2005 Afterburn Report, our relationship with PCSO was characterized as “a sudden breakthrough after six years of diligent work.” That “breakthrough” maintained itself at Burning Man 2006, and we continued to have a positive and productive series of exchanges with PCSO.
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as the event’s primary permitting agency, is one of the most important of the LEAL Teams’ responsibilities and occupies the largest percent of the LEAL Team Manager’s time. Matters are often relative to the BLM stipulations (“stips”) under which the event operates and thus involve BLM Law Enforcement as primary responders (examples are Perimeter and Gate matters, driving in Black Rock City). At the end of the 2005 event, relations with BLM LE were strained because of a few unfortunate on-playa incidents. Thus the two prime objectives of the LEAL Team Manager during the off-season winter months were to repair this potential strain on the ongoing relationship and re-establishing open and forthright communications. The good news is, a series of productive meetings not only re-established previously-attained levels of communication and candor, but also opened new avenues of cooperation and joint effort. An example of this was a jointly-produced procedure for event evictions involving the BLM and the Black Rock Rangers. Another example was the creation of a new Law Enforcement Feedback Form that served to produce timely feedback from Burning Man to LE that was both positive and negative in tone, as the case might dictate.
The Daily Agency Meeting conducted at 4:15pm on playa and chaired by the LEAL Team Manager went quite smoothly in 2006, characterized by efficient and timely exchange of information and points of view. As a result, on-playa issues were resolved quickly, usually by the next day of business.