In his mission to protect public safety throughout Pershing County, Sheriff Jerry Allen provided law enforcement services even at the unofficial “Renegade Festival.” The “non-event” replaced the official Burning Man festival that was cancelled for the second time in a row due to COVID.
Pershing County leaders are concerned the county cannot afford to provide emergency services for large informal gatherings on the Black Rock Playa. A ten-year agreement with Burning Man requires festival organizers to pay for county law enforcement and other services at the event.
By reaching agreements as needed with the Bureau of Land Management, Sheriff Allen said he has covered much of his law enforcement costs even during “non-events” not officially sanctioned by the BLM such as Fourth-of-Juplaya and Renegade Festival. Another agreement could be reached for a Burner-style gathering that’s expected in October known as Octoplaya.
Allen said the agreements between PCSO and BLM are “not exactly” formal contracts.
“We were not contracted ‘by’ the BLM to provide any services,” he said. “The BLM understands they need assistance at the ‘Non-Festival’ just as they would at a regular Festival. In an effort to ensure that the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office could attempt to have adequate staffing, they entered into a contract with PCSO for services we thought we would be able to provide. However, that is not to say that we became employees of the BLM or any other federal government authority nor did they become employees of the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.”
Allen said future “contracts” between PCSO and the BLM will be “on a case by case basis.” He also said that he would prefer to reach future agreements with BLM rather than Burning Man.
“It would definitely be easier and more sensible.”
The latest agreement for the Renegade Festival, the BLM covered his personnel and equipment costs but “we have covered some of our own costs, if we could,” Sheriff Allen said.
Two full-time sworn deputies from the PCSO and six contracted sworn personnel from outside agencies patrolled the Renegade Festival for approximately 11 days, he said. As usual, more county personnel on the playa could have shortened response times to emergency calls.
“For most of the Non-Festival, we had enough but there were several times where calls for service went unanswered until we could free up a unit to respond, much as we do in other parts of the County. We were contacted to assist with the whole gamut of issues and calls for service.”
County personnel arrested four people during Renegade Festival for “charges spanning from Domestic (Violence) with strangulation, DUI, ADW (Assault with a Deadly Weapon) and one for an out of state warrant.” About 15,000 people attended the non-event according to Sheriff Allen.
There were no fatalities this year but there were several injury accidents, he said.
“I was made aware of a fall from approximately 50 feet that required a patient to be transported to Reno. I was also made aware of several, unknown exact number, injuries related to speed and crashes that required transport (for medical treatment).”