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Former Escondido police Chief Ed Varso selected to lead the department — again

Former Escondido police Chief Ed Varso will return to the position after a short stint as chief of the Menifee Police Department in Riverside County, officials in both cities announced Monday.

Varso rose through the ranks in Escondido and was prompted to chief in 2020. He left to lead the department in Menifee in late June.

He will assume his new role Dec. 17.

Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso

(Courtesy of City of Escondido)

“Returning to Escondido is more than just reclaiming an old job, I feel like I am returning home,” Varso said in a statement issued by the city. “I look forward to reconnecting with the police department, City staff, and the community as we work together to ensure public safety.”

Varso was chosen as Escondido’s next chief after the city recruited candidates to replace Varso. Capt. David Cramer, a 26-year department veteran, led the agency on an interim basis.

City officials did not say how many finalists or candidates were considered or provide details about the costs of the search, and they did not immediately respond to questions about the matter.

In a statement, Escondido City Manager Sean McGlynn welcomed Varso back.

“I know our officers and all of Escondido are in great hands due to Chief Varso’s proven track record of transparency and leadership within our community,” McGlynn said. “I look forward to his continued success as he returns as the Chief of Police.”

Varso started his law enforcement career as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in 1997. The Escondido Police Department hired him in 2001. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and a master’s degree in public administration.

He replaced former police Chief Craig Carter in January 2020. As chief, Varso drew attention when he knelt with Black Lives Matter supporters on June 3 of that year, a little more than a week after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd.

“What happened to Mr. George Floyd was awful, and it was even that much more despicable because it was an act carried out by police officers,” Varso said at the time. “I don’t represent that and my entire police department doesn’t represent that, and I’m standing here on behalf of my department to make sure the community understands that we are all together in this, we all condemn what happened to Mr. Floyd.”

Varso oversaw the implementation of a de-escalation policy, similar to what other departments rolled out in response to calls for police reform that gained momentum after Floyd’s murder.

When Varso left Escondido in June, he became only the second police chief in Menifee, a city that created its own Police Department in 2020.

Varso expressed excitement about his new role in a message posted to the Menifee Police Department’s website.

“For me this is more than just a place to work, it is personal. I live in Menifee with my family, we are on the same streets, and frequent the same parks and shopping centers,” he said. “It is with that perspective in mind that I will be policing Menifee not just as a Chief of Police, but as your neighbor.”

He ended the note with a thank you “for all the support today and in the years to come.”

In a news release, Menifee city officials said Varso felt comfortable with his departure based on the “strong foundation and internal leadership” within the city’s police force.

“I believe the team here is well-suited to carry on the operations of the police department and continue its successful trajectory well into the future,” Varso said in a statement.

City Manager Armando Villa thanked Varso for his time with the department.

“During his short time here in Menifee, Chief Varso made a strong positive impact on his officers and our community,” Villa said in a statement.

Information about Varso’s salary in Menifee was not immediately available, and Escondido city officials did not say how much he will be paid when he returns. In 2021, he was paid about $359,500 in salary and benefits, according to Transparent California, a public pay and pension database that includes government employees.

The Escondido Police Department includes about 220 employees, including 160 sworn personnel. Its budget totals $54 million.

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