The year we spent in Austin, Texas, was our first exposure to a proliferation of law-enforcement vehicles that weren't V8/RWD, unless you count Europe. And we have to say, that German officer who broke up our barbeque in the park didn't seem all that threatening in his Opel. Neither did the ATX PD in their Impalas. The Authority is just not there. Sure, badge, gun, travel, etc. And the fact remains that one doesn't necessarily need a Vic for most patrol duties. But there's something symbolic in such a vehicle. Wayne County, Michigan switched a couple of years ago. Oakland County's doing it now. But Macomb County top cop Mark Hackel has reservations, and the best observation: "It may be the politically correct thing. But it's not just about gas mileage." [Freep]
I grew up in N. VA, in Fairfax County. Now, first you should know, that Fairfax County has the highest per-capita income of any county in the US, last I checked. Everybody there seems to be fairly well-off. My parents were, but the allowance didn't reflect that. Oh well.
City of Fairfax police drove Volvos in the 80's. It was really quite amusing. County cops would ooze by in their big B&W Crown Vics - including the lowered ones marked "INTERCEPTOR" on the back, which were rare and exciting to see - and the two would sometimes cross, the City fuzz in the Volvo and the County mounties in the Vic. They would nod respectfully to each other, but after they had passed, the County cops were often seen chuckling quietly to themselves.
Interesting fact: Fairfax county had one Interceptor that blew the doors off everything. It had the big 460 under the hood, but tucked alongside it was a supercharger. According to the cop inside it - he was helping me look for my bike, which had been stolen - it ran the quarter in 12.0. Do NOT screw with Fairfax county cops.