Former Escondido police Chief Ed Varso, who will return next month to lead the department again, will receive an 18 percent pay increase, city official said Tuesday.
Varso will be paid a base salary of $250,000, up from $212,000 when he left in late June to lead the Menifee Police Department in Riverside County.
Menifee city officials said his base salary was $224,000. He is only the second police chief in Menifee, a city that created its own Police Department in 2020.
The salary Varso accepted to return will be 2.7 percent above the median salary among police chiefs in the county, according to Escondido city officials.
Varso will assume his new role Dec. 27.
The city hired Varso again after a nationwide search for his replacement. The city contracted with a recruitment firm to conduct the process and will pay the firm $14,000 for its services and expenses, according to the city.
According to the job listing, the application process closed Oct. 2. Varso notified Menifee of his planned departure Nov. 17, according to Menifee city officials.
Escondido’s consultants had screened the pool of applicants. At some point the city engaged in conversations with Varso, who was not among the applicants — which all but ended the search for a new chief. Applicants were not interviewed, according to the city.
“Chief Varso left the City on very good terms and continued to be involved in the process of the selection of his successor,” the city said in a statement. “During those conversations with the City Manager, the topic of his returning to the position came up and was explored.”
Varso, who rose through the ranks before his promotion to chief in 2020, said in a statement that he looked forward to reconnecting with the Escondido Police Department, other city employees and community members to “ensure public safety.”
“Returning to Escondido is more than just reclaiming an old job, I feel like I am returning home,” Varso said in a statement.
Varso started his law enforcement career as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in 1997. The Escondido Police Department hired him as a police officer in 2001.
As chief, Varso drew attention when he knelt with Black Lives Matter supporters a little more than a week after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd in 2020.
“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.
Yousef Miller, a social justice and police reform advocate who lives in Escondido, said Tuesday that he had not heard Varso was selected to lead the department again. He welcomed Varso’s return.
“When he hit the ground, he wound up reaching out to all the movers and the shakers in the city, sitting down and listening to our concerns,” Miller said.
Miller said Varso maintained an open-door environment. Miller pointed to the de-escalation policy and said Varso allowed community members to provide input before the final version was implemented.
The Escondido Police Department includes about 220 employees, including 160 sworn personnel. Its budget totals $54 million.