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According to a study published last year by USA Today, nearly 6,000 doctors nationwide between 2001 and 2011 had their privileges restricted or revoked by hospitals and other medical institutions due to malpractice related to patient care.

National figures show that roughly 1,000 attorneys each year are disbarred, most often because of professional misconduct.

Meanwhile, newspapers are filled with stories of financial professionals, nonprofit workers, clergy members and, yes, even journalists showing poor judgment on the job, errors that land them in jail, in civil court and/or in unemployment lines.

Given all of that, why is it that we have such a hard time discussing how those in the profession of public safety sometimes, like everyone else, make mistakes?

Instead, it seems every time there’s a questionable officer-involved shooting, like the one that’s now tearing apart the town of Ferguson, Mo., barr-icades go up, a code of silence is enforced and the general public gets the message: “Yes, this was a tragedy. But it wasn’t personal. It was protocol.”

No admission of responsibility. No acknowledgment of how the situation could have been handled differently. And, certainly, no apology.

It’s a dead-end conversation. And the result is predictable: More public outrage, more distrust, more lawsuits.

It’s no doubt one reason why many Sonoma County residents were frustrated last week at the news that Deputy Erick Gelhaus, the officer responsible for the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez was put back out on patrol. Yes, 10 months later, the community appears to be moving toward some significant changes, including putting cameras on deputy uniforms, improving oversight of officer-involved shootings and, possibly, creating a public park at the corner of Moorland and W. Robles avenues where the shooting occurred. But putting the deputy back on patrol was a harsh reminder that we’re no closer to having assurances that what happened on Oct. 22, 2013 won’t happen again.

Andy certainly had the power to prevent it by not carrying a toy rifle that closely resembled a real weapon and by responding more quickly to the officer’s commands to drop the weapon. But there’s still no acknowledgment of what the deputy could have done differently.

Last month, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch concluded that when Gelhaus fired, striking the boy seven times, he believed the threat was real and was following protocol and training, and therefore his actions didn’t warrant criminal charges. No surprise. I don’t believe most people really believed Gelhaus should face prison time. But what we still haven’t heard is whether he made a mistake — and what the department is doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Based on the county’s findings in this case, I also have to ask, if another officer in the same situation had avoided firing, thus sparing Andy’s life, does this mean he or she would have been in violation of protocols and training?

If so, heaven help us.

All of this leaves little room for hope of a different outcome next time. Law enforcement stands a better chance of diffusing protests here and even those in Missouri if they took less of a defensive position and were more willing to acknowledge that officers are human — people who sometimes make mistakes.

The medical profession began to recognize the value of such a simple approach more than a decade ago when, according to the New York Times, prominent academic medical centers such as Johns Hopkins and Stanford began “trying (the) disarming approach. By promptly disclosing medical errors and offering earnest apologies and fair compensation” when errors were made. In the process, they hoped “to restore integrity to dealings with patients, make it easier to learn from mistakes and dilute anger that often fuels lawsuits.” Other hospitals soon followed.

One of the first to switch to such a “full disclosure” policy was the University of Michigan Health System. Rather than increasing problems, as health care professionals feared, it minimized them. Claims and malpractice lawsuits dropped significantly.

To say that cops make errors — or perhaps to even suggest that some cops are in the wrong profession — is not an attack on the credibility of those in uniform any more so than to acknowledge malpractice is to malign all those in the medical profession. The vast majority of police officers, as with doctors, are hardworking, ethical and responsible professionals. But there are bad apples in every profession, ranging from the mendacious to the incompetent. The question is, are those in public safety doing enough to acknowledge that and to police themselves?

The answer is we don’t really know. Police officers are protected not only by an internal code of silence but laws such as the California Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights, enacted more than 35 years ago primarily to protect honest peace officers from witch hunts. But since then, the bill, along with key sections of California’s penal code that exempt all police personnel information from state transparency laws, has essentially provided sanctuary for bad cops. It also has eroded public confidence that when cops do make mistakes or go rogue that they experience some kind of consequence for their actions — beyond leaving taxpayers the tab for huge civil judgments.

Acknowledging errors and offering greater transparency when officers are disciplined would go far toward rebuilding confidence that the justice system is policing itself and ensuring that the vast majority of those on duty are good, well-trained officers. As it stands, the public isn’t sure what to believe.

Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. Email him at paul.gullixson@press democrat.com.