Black Rock Rangers
Recruiting, Retention and Staffing
In 2012, we changed the requirement to become a Ranger from one year of Burning Man experience to two years; we continue to feel that with the growth in both population scale and social complexity in Black Rock City, volunteers who have a deep familiarity with the city and a connection to the values of the community are better prepared to serve as Rangers.
In the planning season for the 2012 event, we instituted some changes and incentives that resulted in staffing distributions that met the needs of the city, despite the fact that we extended operations to include the week before and the week after the official event week, effectively tripling the number of shifts we needed to fill.
The Ranger Training Team continues to add new training material for returning volunteers to expand their knowledge base and has reworked the general Ranger training to benefit both new and returning volunteers.
Operations Ranger operations, overall, went smoothly. This year saw the introduction of a new role—Operator—who supported our incident tracking with a computerized incident management system. The operational enhancements of searchable incidents and electronic records had an immediately noticeable positive effect, from our ability to track which individual Rangers were working on what incident to the ability to report on bigger picture data about our operations and staffing.
All major burns, including the CORE, Man, and Temple burns, went smoothly. The Temple burn saw increased Ranger volunteering in 2012, which was appreciated by the artists and the Temple Guardians. This year, we also had increased training for Rangers who work inside the perimeter and increased staffing of that team.
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) continued their “community-based policing” orientation, which yields “protect and serve” behavior. This not only benefited the citizens of Black Rock City, it also made for natural cooperation with the Black Rock Rangers. Our relationship with PCSO continues to be positive and mutually respectful of our different roles within Black Rock City as we work towards a common mission of public safety.
The LEAL Team (Law Enforcement and Agency Liaison Team)
The work pattern for the LEAL Team Manager in 2012 followed the patterns established in 2011. The LEAL Team Manager is a member of the Political Sub-committee, and the bulk of the LEAL Team Manager’s work activity during 2012 outside of the event focused on Political Sub-Committee priorities and projects. The LEAL Team Manager also became part of the Burning Man Government Relations Department, with the job title of Manager, Law Enforcement Relations. The LEAL Team, as it operates on playa liaison-ing with law enforcement, and working with law enforcement-related political entities year-round, remains a component of the Black Rock Rangers, with the LEAL Team Manager serving as a member of the Ranger Operations Team, as well as a member of the Playa Safety Council and an adjunct member of the Ranger Council. In 2012 the LEAL Team, as well as several other representatives of Burning Man, continued to work on strengthening relationships with outside Law Enforcement Agencies.
It should be noted that there is one key component that serves to distill the importance of focusing upon law enforcement relationships, not only key law enforcement players, but also with the political entities they represent. It is the fact that federal Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) from the Bureau of Land Management and state LEOs from Pershing County continue to use the Black Rock Rangers as a first response mechanism in Black Rock City and in dealing with many on-playa situations. In some circumstances, the specialized LEAL Team may also be called to a scene by law enforcement. These are practices we both hope to preserve and continue to reinforce because the needs of our community are best served by Black Rock Rangers as first response. The reason the aforementioned processes of preservation and reinforcement are important is due to the fact that Burning Man’s relationship(s) with law enforcement are not constant and predictable, but subject to sometimes significant variation on a year to year basis.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — Federal Law Enforcement
Good News — As mentioned above, in terms of general demeanor and general comportment, this was one of the better years we have had with BLM law enforcement. There were exceptions, but we received a number of positive LE Feedback Forms and personal stories of BLM LEOs behaving and interacting with our community just as we would want them to.
Bad News — BLM added 16 BLM LEOs to their total cadre and doubled the number of drug teams and drug -focused personnel. Despite all of these personnel increases, the total number of BLM citations was parallel to those from 2011, including the number of BLM LE arrests, working in conjunction with the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s NDI team —despite the doubling of the number of drug-focused LEOs. BLM LEOs continued to have an almost exclusive focus on illegal drugs, neglecting issues of community safety and citizen welfare. This is not a change in their strategies from years past.
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.
2) There were a number of higher profile events at Burning Man 2012, including an extensive search for a runaway teen who was essentially hiding from her father. The PCOS handled these incidents with grace and with consideration for all of the parties involved. Higher level PCSO LEOs worked better than ever with Burning Man’s LEAL Team Manager, especially in high stress incidents.
3) Just as in 2011, 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.
Wilfredo Sanchez Vega and Duane Hoover