Soon after the Alabama massacre, Paul Frazier, the Braintree chief of police, offered an unsettling answer. At a press conference, he was unambiguous in his assignment of blame. One of the lieutenants had been booking Amy, he explained, when he was informed that the police chief had ordered her release.
A reporter asked Frazier who the chief had been at the time.
“John Polio,” he replied.
“It was all Polio’s decision,” Frazier told me. Amy was being questioned at the station when Judy Bishop arrived. According to Ronald Solimini, who had returned to the station by then, Judy demanded to see the chief, shouting, “Where’s John V.?”
When I asked Frazier how Judy came to be on a first-name basis with the chief, he said, “She was a big supporter of his.” In the mid-eighties, he reminded me, Judy had been a member of the Town Meeting, the local representative body. Polio, who was in his early sixties at the time, had been “quietly working” members of the group in the hope of raising the mandatory retirement age of police officers, which was sixty-five.
In this telling, the famously incorruptible Polio ended up granting the ultimate political favor.
For years afterward, Frazier told me, officers in the department whispered among themselves about the decision to let Amy go. It was an open secret in the station house, Frazier said, and knowledge of this transgression cast in a different light Polio’s prohibition on ticket-fixing and other forms of small-bore police corruption. “If he can fix a murder, I can fix a ticket” was the prevailing attitude, Frazier said. “It was a miscarriage of justice,” he concluded. “Just because it was a friend of his.”