JRS VOLUME #13; ISSUE #32
Burning Man Update: The Jack Rabbit Speaks
Volume 13, Issue #32: LAW ENFORCEMENT
August 14, 2009
+ WHAT PUBLIC AGENCIES PATROL THE EVENT?
+ HOW DO THE BLACK ROCK RANGERS DIFFER FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT? WHAT IS THE LEAL TEAM?
+ PLEASE RESPECT LAW ENFORCEMENT - ESPECIALLY IF YOU IF YOU'RE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
+ SPECIFIC LAWS TO BE AWARE OF IN 2009
+ GIVE US YOUR REAL-TIME FEEDBACK WITH A "LAW ENFORCEMENT FEEDBACK FORM"
+ ACLU AT PLAYA INFO
+ LAWYERS FOR BURNERS
+ KNOW YOUR RIGHTS + FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE SEE ...
CONNECT WITH BURNING MAN:
+ Burning Man on your favorite social networks
While Burning Man is a remote and freewheeling place, it's also a functioning metropolis. And just like any other city, numerous law enforcement agencies patrol Black Rock City day and night. Not to bum you out or anything, but ... for reals ... all Federal, State and Local laws still exist at Burning Man, and any illegal action witnessed by law enforcement can lead to a citation or your arrest. And that? Would suck. Your best protection is to obey the law.
In order to give you the best understanding of how law enforcement works at Burning Man, how to interact with a law enforcement officer, and how to protect your Constituional rights, professionals in the extended Burning Man community have generously provided the following information.
It's well worth a thorough read through ... believe the Rabbit.
WHAT PUBLIC AGENCIES PATROL THE EVENT?
Officers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) patrol throughout Black Rock City and the surrounding Black Rock Desert. BLM Rangers typically wear tan pants and short-sleeved shirts with the Department of the Interior/BLM logo on their sleeves. Investigative BLM agents work undercover and dress like any other Burning Man participant ... even in costume (People who ask for gifts of drugs or ask to trade drugs are acting outside of our 10 Principles and should not be trusted ... and remember, medical marijuana is NOT legal in Nevada.). BLM Rangers and Agents are primarily concerned with violations of federal laws.
The Pershing County Sheriff's Office also patrols Black Rock City, and is supported by officers from other counties. They usually wear gray/ light blue short-sleeved polo shirts. Their primary task is enforcing state and local laws within Black Rock City. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office primarily patrols the nearby town of Gerlach. They wear green uniforms, and they are concerned mainly with keeping the traffic moving and ensuring that Burning Man participants respect local citizens' privacy and property.
Some years (and 2009 happens to be one of them), the Nevada Department of Investigations (NDI) patrols Black Rock City, looking for drug trafficking. Remember, in the State of Nevada even gifting someone a small quantity of a controlled substance can rise to the level of drug trafficking. Obey the law and avoid being arrested for drug trafficking.
The Nevada State Health Division's goal is to protect the health of our citizens and prevent food-borne epidemics, or other health hazards.
HOW DO THE BLACK ROCK RANGERS DIFFER FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT? WHAT IS THE LEAL TEAM?
The Black Rock Rangers are Burning Man participants who volunteer time and effort as non-confrontational community mediators. Responding to the continuously evolving nature of the event, Rangers address situations within the community that would otherwise require outside intervention. By encouraging and facilitating communication, the Rangers promote awareness of potential hazards, from sunstroke to tent fires.
LEAL is an acronym for Law Enforcement Agency Liaison. The LEAL Team is comprised of volunteer Black Rock Rangers who are specifically trained to interact with law enforcement on the playa. They don't directly deal with violations of the law, but they are available to help bridge the gap between our ethos and culture, and the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement officers working on the playa. One or more representatives of this team will be on duty around the clock during the event. They often wear some item of zebra print clothing, along with their Ranger shirts, to help identify them. You can contact a LEAL team member by asking at Ranger Headquarters in Center Camp, or asking any Black Rock Ranger you see to radio for their assistance.
It is important to remember that Black Rock Rangers (including LEAL team members) are not law enforcement personnel. They are members of the Burning Man community, just like you. You can identify them by their khaki-colored attire, featuring the familiar Burning Man logo in brown on their backs and chests. You should feel free to request their assistance at any time.
PLEASE RESPECT LAW ENFORCEMENT - ESPECIALLY IF YOU IF YOU'RE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
It is important to remember that without law enforcement in Black Rock City there would be no Burning Man event. BLM would not permit the event on federal lands. Also, the State of Nevada would not allow such a large assembly without enforcement of state laws. Furthermore, the Burning Man Project would not even consider holding such a large- scale event without law enforcement's expertise and assistance.
So, what can you as a participant do to prepare in case you have an encounter with law enforcement at Burning Man?
First, you are well served by fully understanding law enforcement's concerns, rationales, and potential behaviors on playa and the situations this can produce (as well as the legal consequences it can engender). This information is found in a concise and readable form in the Law Enforcement section of the Survival Guide. (The Survival Guide has been mailed out to all ticket holders, and is available on Burningman.com at:
Second, you should look within yourself, and choose the behaviors you will engage in on playa before you arrive on playa and become potentially swept away by the events of the moment. Third, you need to look beyond yourself and include your campmates and playa traveling companions in your mix. Do not let their choices and their behavior put you in legal jeopardy.
Fourth, familiarize yourself with this year's areas of concern for law enforcement (see the next section).
Finally, you could help the Burning Man Project make this work better every year by completing a Law Enforcement Feedback Form on playa this year (see below).
Many Burners find it useful to look at the law enforcement officers who work the Burning Man event as participants with differing agendas, differing levels of playa experience and differing levels of Burner "sophistication". For many years in the past many (if not most) law enforcement officers were "playa experienced" and worked the event year after year. Many of them, like many Burners, were Burning Man volunteers (of a sort) and worked the event by choice. They looked forward to returning to the playa year after year and many of them grew to appreciate and understand the culture of Burning Man. However, as our event has grown over the years, more and more law enforcement officers have had to be brought in on pace with our population growth. For example, we have simply outgrown the limited resources of the Pershing County Sheriff's Office based in Lovelock, and they now have to bring in officers from other Nevada jurisdictions to supplement their own numbers. Similar policies affect BLM's staffing.
Any Burning Man newbie has a pretty steep learning curve upon arriving on the playa, living in Black Rock City and experiencing Burning Man. Lots of folks cannot readily absorb the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and human interaction that spring from the Burning Man experience, and it takes them a while to adjust and to adapt. This challenge is heightened by the fact that Black Rock City only exists for a week. This process is made more difficult for Burning Man law enforcement officers because they arrive on playa with a pre-defined set of criteria (the laws they are sworn to enforce); they are not at liberty to discard or even selectively enforce these laws. Unfortunately, some officers also arrive with pre-conceived ideas about Burning Man, which may or may not align with reality. The result is a predictable (perhaps even inevitable) clash between the values and behaviors that are the tapestry of the Burning Man culture, and many of law enforcement's perceptions about their role as the designated law enforcement force on playa.
As you can tell from observing law enforcement's behavior on playa, and as you can conclude from the changing/evolving content of each year's Survival Guide, the priorities and agenda(s) of law enforcement can often shift from year to year. This is a function of many factors, including changes in law enforcement personnel, changes in Black Rock City citizen behaviors, changes in Burner population and demographics, changes in pressure and priorities from entities and sources outside of Burning Man and law enforcement.
The Burning Man Project would like to thank all law enforcement agencies at Black Rock for their 15 years of ongoing cooperative effort. The law enforcement presence at Burning Man is for public safety. They provide numerous instances of invaluable services for the good of the community, as public servants. We all have jobs to do, whether patrolling the streets of Black Rock or passing out rubber chickens, why don't we try to get along? Let's respect one another on the playa and practice a little of that radical inclusion we keep talking about.
J. Duane Hoover
Law Enforcement & Agency Liaison (LEAL) Team Manager
Black Rock Rangers
The Burning Man Project
SPECIFIC LAWS TO BE AWARE OF IN 2009
It is important to remember that all Federal, State and Local laws still exist at Burning Man. THE USE AND TRAFFICKING OF ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES IS PROHIBITED. Also, MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS NOT LEGAL IN NEVADA.
There is usually an emphasis on patrolling Gate Road and at Greeter stations early in the event, as heavy traffic can create unsafe conditions. Even though Gate Road is part of Black Rock City, this is not where mutant vehicles should be operated—unless your mutant vehicle is street legal and your mode of transportation into the event. Stick to the rules of the road while entering Black Rock City — headlights on at night, no passengers on the roof or hanging off the side. Wait until you receive your official sticker from DMV before allowing your vehicle to fully mutate into the bar car, public taxi or art that it is meant to be. Headlights and taillights on art cars will also be monitored while on playa.
Remember that once you arrive at your campsite, driving is prohibited except for DMV licensed mutant vehicles. NO SPEEDING anywhere in Black Rock City, including Gate Road! Please be forewarned that this can be used as a rationale to pull over your vehicle.
NO OPEN ALCOHOLIC CONTAINERS in the driver's area of moving vehicles. An open container does not have to be in the driver's possession. Sitting in the center console and being consumed by the passenger is enough to be a violation. The vehicle does not have to be in motion. The bottom line — no driving with an open container in the driver's compartment at any time, particularly on Gate Road and Greeters stations.
For more information see:
BLM's 2009 Burning Man Temporary Closure Order http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/wfo.html
Burning Man 2009 Survival Guide http://tinyurl.com/7wrzo
GIVE US YOUR REAL-TIME FEEDBACK WITH A "LAW ENFORCEMENT FEEDBACK FORM"
If you experience or witness an encounter with law enforcement on the playa this year, whether it's positive or negative, the Burning Man Project wants to know about it. There will be Law Enforcement Feedback Forms handed out at the Greeter’s Station, and also available at Ranger Headquarters in Center Camp, and at the Ranger Outposts in the 3:00 and 9:00 o'clock plazas. The quicker you can provide us with your feedback, the more effective we can be at following up on situations that occur.
Please try to provide accurate information about the date, time, and location of any incidents, as much detail as you can provide about the officer(s) involved and a clear account of what you saw and heard. We need badge numbers, law enforcement vehicle license plate numbers, an accurate description of the officer's agency affiliation, their uniform description and their vehicle description. The facts of the interaction need to be presented as clearly as possible in order for the report to be of maximum utility. Names and contact information for any additional witnesses are also helpful.
These reports are gathered by the Black Rock Rangers LEAL Team (see above) and are presented and discussed at the daily afternoon meeting with law enforcement. A 2:00 PM deadline insures inclusion of the report in that day's meeting. The object is to inform law enforcement of their observed behaviors and to hopefully shape those behaviors on playa. Important note: Burning Man recognizes that negative feedback can arise as a natural consequence of unfolding events. However, positive Law Enforcement Feedback Form reports are also important. Law enforcement often performs valuable community services at Burning Man, and these acts also need to be recognized so that they can be reinforced and encouraged. If you'd like to make a report in person, ask to speak to a member of the LEAL team.
ACLU AT PLAYA INFO
The Nevada Chapter of the ACLU will be at Playa Info to answer any questions you may have about interacting with law enforcement in Black Rock City. If you want to know what to do if you happen to be stopped for questioning by law, enforcement then come on by. Received a citation? Come on by.
Tuesday through Thursday: 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Friday through Monday: 12:00 Noon to 9:00 PM
LAWYERS FOR BURNERS
Lawyers For Burners is a volunteer organization that helps participants find lawyers after they have been cited or arrested at the event, or otherwise have issues with treatment by law enforcement personnel. For more information, visit:
KNOW YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS
When Can the Police Stop and Search Me?*
The Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement may briefly stop you to ask for your identity without probable cause of a crime; if this occurs, you should be truthful, as lying to an officer may be a crime. However, an officer may not require you to answer additional questions, detain, or search you without either 1) consent or 2) probable cause.
An officer may ask your consent to search you or your belongings, but in order to be valid consent, a reasonable person must understand that he or she could refuse to cooperate. This means that intimidating tactics, such as blocking a door or surrounding a person with numerous officers, are likely coercive situations where consent is not truly voluntary. Your refusal to give consent does not constitute probable cause for search.
Without consent, the Fourth Amendment states that warrantless searches and arrests can only be performed when there is probable cause that a crime has occurred. An officer must be able to point to specific facts indicating criminal activity that give rise to probable cause; mere suspicion or a “hunch” is not enough. Nor can otherwise legal items alone – a mint tin or a cigar, for example – be used to support probable cause without additional evidence of illegal activity.
* This is not legal advice. This is information digesting the general state of the law. We urge you to consult a lawyer for legal advice about a particular legal question or issue you may have. If you believe you are coerced into giving consent for a search, or that you are searched without probable cause, you may wish to contact the ACLU of Nevada, at
How to Speak to Law Enforcement**
Remember that your best defense against citation or arrest may be politeness. However, nothing requires you to incriminate yourself, and an officer may cite you for revealing any illegal behavior.
Officer, my name is [give your real name].
Am I free to go?
If I am not free to go, please explain to me your probable cause for stopping me.
I politely refuse to give you any further information.
I do not consent to any search of me or my belongings, tent, vehicle or camp.
**This information is provided as a courtesy from Lawyers for Burners. For more information, visit:
Remember, this is legal information, not legal advice, which is an interpretation of the applicable law to specific circumstances. We urge you to consult a lawyer for legal advice about a particular legal question or issue you may have.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE SEE ...
BLM's 2009 Burning Man Temporary Closure Order
Burning Man Survival Guide, on Burningman.com at:
http://tinyurl.com/7wrzo The Survival Guide lists all of the illegal activities on playa, and tells you how to conduct yourself if you are stopped for questioning.
Know Your Rights: The ACLU publishes a guide on What To Do If You're
Stopped by Police on the ACLU website at:
Know Your Rights Videos: Flex Your Rights offers free videos online on
how to behave if stopped by law enforcement on their website at:
The Official Burning Man Facebook Page:
Official Burning Man Twitter Account - All Things Burning Man:
Black Rock City Twitter Account - All Things BRC:
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Soundtrack for this JRS: Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird, Audio Bullys