In 2011, Virginia police officer Stephen Rankin shot an unarmed man dead. Last year he did it again. The fight to get him convicted is the subject of a new film
Ken King is a veteran of the US navy. He worked for 25 years as a policeman in southern Virginia. After retiring at the rank of lieutenant, he took command of a military unit guarding the prison camp at Guantnamo Bay.
King does not, therefore, conform to the Donald Trump caricature of those who protest against killings by police officers. And yet King knows what he knows. He will tell you about a preventable error by police that had deadly consequences on two occasions. It may, in fact, be the most serious single institutional failing in US policing to come to light since Ferguson, Missouri, erupted into civil unrest in 2014.
The Guardian first reported in June last year that King, who then went unidentified, had warned senior commanders at Portsmouth police department about the dangers posed by one of the officers under his command. The officer was Stephen Rankin.
Officer Rankin was receiving too many complaints about his use of force, King told them, such as using his Taser to shock a 60-year-old grandmother during a dispute about her car being towed, and wrestling a 15-year-old girl to the ground in a routine confrontation.
There are some people who come into law enforcement who are not suited for the job, says King, who is softly spoken but intense. Stephen Rankin was one of those people.
Rankin had the capacity to cause a riot at a church social, as King puts it. He could go to any event and it would just escalate out of control in some way.
Previously reluctant to speak publicly, King agreed to be interviewed for a powerful documentary, which builds on the Guardians reporting, and airs on BBC2 on Wednesday.
King says he asked internal affairs investigators working for Portsmouth police chief Ed Hargis to look into the repeated complaints about Rankins excessive force, but the officer was allowed to continue policing the public. Later, after finding that Rankin was also falsely claiming overtime pay, King says he wrote to Hargis recommending the officer be fired from his job. He wasnt.