Officer reassigned after ticketing local busker

Video Still: YouTube

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An Albany cop has been placed on administrative duties as the department investigates his confrontation with a street musician.

Leif Solem posted a 43 second video on YouTube that shows him busking, or street performing, on North Pearl Street in the city of Albany. But Officer Glenn Szelest tickets him for disorderly conduct claiming Solem is blocking the sidewalk.

Solem said it was the first time he had ever been stopped by police. He said the officer quickly became condescending.

“He sort of says rhetorically, ‘You were picked on in school weren’t you,’” Solem said over the phone. “And he was sort of being really demeaning and belittling.”

Local musician Derek Rogers saw the video. As a busker himself, he understands the importance of following the rules, but he’s not sure the video alone warrants the charge of disorderly conduct.

“More often than not, you know, when someone’s being obnoxious and crossing the line, and I have no problem with a cop telling someone to stop in that case, but I guess, you know it when you see it, and from the looks of that video, it seems like that guy wasn’t bothering a fly,” he said.

Albany City Hall referred to the mayor’s office when asked about needing a permit for busking in the city. The mayor’s office declined to comment.

The city clerk’s website contains no information that prohibits busking in Albany.

“To my knowledge, there is no ordinance against busking,” Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox said.

Cox said they placed the 21-year veteran on administrative duty while they conduct an internal investigation.

“We want to make sure that the trust is there,” he said. “That is part of the reason why we took the action we did today. To make sure we do a thorough investigation to find out exactly what the facts are.”

Solem has a court appearance scheduled for Thursday.

Since it doesn’t appear Albany has an ordinance against busking, he’s hoping the city will dismiss the case.

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