Memories Spurred by DUI Checkpoint

Steve Whitmore as a 20-year-old had some run-ins with law enforcement over alcohol consumption.

Last weekend I ran down to take photographs of the South Pasadena Police Department’s DUI checkpoint set up in front of the War Memorial Building.

It brought back a bucket-load of memories. Yes, I did have issues as a teen-ager and in my 20s with the police and alcohol. I was an enthusiastic imbiber and did have some visits with law enforcement when, at times, I was a bit, oh, how shall I say it, tipsy.

That was a long time ago. In fact, because alcohol and I became such good friends I decided to give it up at the age of 27 and haven’t had a drop since. Grateful to be done with it. Life is tricky enough as it is without having to navigate with a broken engine.

I will share with you, though, that I did spend some times behind bars as a misguided youth because of my alcohol consumption. I did even end up in the Los Angeles County jail at the ripe old age of 23. I never got closer again except when I went to work for the head jailer in Los Angeles County years later.

Here I was taking photographs of the SPPD DUI checkpoint last Friday night when one of the officers asked me about that job. The one I retired from in 2016. The one where I was working for the head jailer of Los Angeles County, Sheriff Lee Baca.

I was the senior community communications officer for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from 2000 to 2016. The majority of that time I spent fronting stories that could be considered substantive and sometimes I fronted stories that many considered frivolous. And believe it or not many of the frivolous stories received the most attention. I remember once I was doing a press conference about Paris Hilton being locked up in our jails because of a, you guessed it, DUI. There were serious issues in the nation then as there are now. I walked out to announce the fact that Hilton was in custody and, well, I walked out to dozens of television cameras, radio announcers and print journalists. And there were scores of paparazzi. My first brush with the paparazzi and it didn’t go well. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens were all waiting for my big announcement. Some television stations were even carrying the press conference live. Do you believe that? I got in trouble that day because some of my boss’s top media advisors criticized me for talking too much. My dad applauded my delivery saying it was nice to see somebody finally deal with such an issue with intelligence and humor. I welcomed his kind words.

The only reason I bring this up is because I have been on the receiving end of law enforcement and the giving end. And trust me, it’s much better to give than to receive. Talk soon.