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Eliminating stop-and-frisk campaigns could create a chilling effect that obstructs police from legitimately searching valid suspects who carry firearms or other illegal weapons.

Mr. Kelly also noted the problems that police cameras would pose when they go beyond their usefulness in surveilling officers to deter them against misconduct.

“When do you have the cameras on?” he asked. “When do you turn them off? Do you have it on during a domestic dispute? Do you have it on when somebody comes to give you confidential information? All of these issues have to be answered.”

Although Bulger’s prosecution was long overdue, engaging in the regular prosecution of less-controversial government informants may result in a drought of information needed to convict higher-level organized crime bosses.

America is facing a debate that is questioning opportunities and limits on the government’s police and intelligence powers. The outcome remains uncertain, as events such as terrorist attacks, leaks and legal battles shape public opinion. But there’s no doubt a debate has begun.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C.