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May 23, 2014
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Lt. Dan Marcou Blue Knights
with Lt. Dan Marcou

How a NJ cop won 'Survivor' with police training

Officer Tony Vlachos of the Jersey City, New Jersey Police Department took his skills as a street officer to a remote Pacific Island and outlasted all comers to become this season’s winner the Survivor TV show

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Officer Tony Vlachos from all of us at PoliceOne. You’re the man!

“Jersey City Cop is the Sole Survivor!” Headlines like that normally would mean a terrible tragedy had befallen the officers of Jersey City. Instead, Jersey City (NJ) officers are proud of one of their own who this week took first place on the longest running reality series broadcast on CBS: Survivor. 

Officer Tony Vlachos took his skills as a street officer to a remote Pacific Island and outlasted all comers to become this season’s winner of one million dollars.

Tony commented that as a cop back in the “motherland,” he had to be incorruptible. But in Survivor he recognized that it was a game where it was his job to “drag other’s dreams through the mud” on his indomitable quest to make the life of his wife and children better. He has one child and he and his wife are expecting another.

Cop-Skills on Display 
During the season that host Jeff Probst called “possibly the best played ever,” Tony Vlachos was undoubtedly the best of the best. He used the skills he obtained as a street cop and applied them successfully to this game. 

As the game progressed, Tony was an aggressive and effective team player. He helped his team win challenge after challenge,avoiding tribal councils where eliminations took place. This early success enabled Tony to form alliances that served him throughout the game.

As the numbers dwindled, Tony gathered intelligence like an undercover cop. In a unique move for Survivor, he determined the locations where secret conversations were held by other contestants as they plotted their own devious moves. He constructed a hide to listen in on the intentions of the other players, to ferret out the truth in a world swirling with friendly treachery.

Time and time again Tony used this intelligence to hit back first. 

His ability to interview and detect deception served him well also in helping to decide each move. 

Hard Work and Sacrifice Paid Off
Tony applied the concept that is true in police work. Some of our best work is done on over-time. Tony was constantly on the hunt for idols. He was able to locate three of them. These served to protect him over and over again from the possibility of being voted off the island. He located them by conducting relentless searches of prime hiding locations sometimes with a clue and one without any clues at all.

On one occasion he passed up spending his money on food, when everyone was starving.  Instead he paid for a chance to draw a rock for a clue to a “special hidden immunity idol.” After finding the idol Tony bluffed the others into believing it had even more power than it did, which got him into the final four.

The Producers Changed the Rules
Much like the Supreme Court does for police officers, the show’s producers changed the rules of the game, while the game was in progress. Instead of the jury voting for the final three contestants, they were required to play the game out until only two remained. 

Tony and a martial artist named Woo had established a close relationship throughout the game. In a game where loyalty is a convenient façade, theirs was the only loyalty that seemed unshakable. Time and time again Tony kept his promise to Woo when he could have voted him out. He did this even though it appeared Woo might be popular enough to win the votes of the jury.

In the final decision Woo decided to repay Tony’s loyalty to him. Woo chose Tony to go with him to the finals.

Woo explained that he chose Tony for two reasons: in martial arts tournaments he always wanted to face the best and Tony was the best. He also felt that he was honor-bound to pay back the loyalty Tony had showed him.

After Woo lost to Tony in the final vote — he may have easily beaten the arrogant attorney who was the alternate choice to Tony for his opposition — the young martial arts instructor said without batting an eye, “I can hold my head high.” 

A Life in the Balance
Woo was right when he chose Tony, because he wished to face off with the best. As someone who has watched every season of Survivor, I agree Tony was indeed one of the best ever.

Tony recently proved that he was not only one of the best while surrounded by television cameras on an island, but also when no one was around to watch and a life hung in the balance.

Officer Tony Vlachos recently had a man drop dead in front of him. The man had had a massive heart attack. Tony went into immediate action and saved the man’s life with CPR. The man later sought him out and gave him a heartfelt thank you.


About the author

Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou





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