Ferguson brought to light how cops use anti-drug and anti-terror campaigns to get tanks and guns. They're also using government programs to take your money, too. This video explains how.
The above video, put together by the Washington Post is a great explainer for how it all works. Basically, you're driving down then road and then you are stopped, you are searched, and your money is confiscated on the suspicion that it's connected to drug trafficking.
It's called federal civil asset forfeiture law, and it started being used to fight the drug trade back in the 1970s, the Washington Post reports, aiming at seizing planes, boats, and other vehicles actually used to move drugs.
As the War on Drugs wore on, the focus on vehicles started to turn into a focus on cash. The amount of money going into Justice Department's federal forfeiture fund tells much of the story.
1985: $27 million
1993: $556 million
2007: $2.6 billion
That final spike comes, naturally, from the War on Terror.
The Post has a much more in-depth report on how exactly vicil forfeiture exploded in this country coupled with its video report right here. Gothamist also has two excellent reports right here and right here on the NYPD's civil forfeiture claims, taking money (and cars) from those least likely to fight for their property in court and get it back.
I would call this senseless offense from authority Kafkaesque, but that's not quite right. It's medieval.
(Hat tip to Ryan!)