The GOES, Malaga's elite police squad

In formation, members of the GOES team in Malaga secure the area during a training session. FERNANDO TORRES
In formation, members of the GOES team in Malaga secure the area during a training session. FERNANDO TORRES
  • The Grupo Operativo Especial de Seguridad opened its doors and let SUR watch a training session: abseiling, raids and attacks with fake ammunition

They abseil the height of five apartments down a steel cable in a few seconds. When they touch the ground, they remove their harnesses automatically, while looking in all directions: for ledges, windows, possible threats. These police officers are in reality in the provincial headquarters in Malaga and this operation is one of many training exercises they do every week, but that doesn't matter. Their senses are on high alert even though it is a drill, because when it happens for real, these hours of instruction will prevent problems occurring in real situations.

They are equipped with ballistic shields, assault weapons and other firearms, helmets that weigh several kilos and jackets that make standing upright a difficult task. They are the Grupo Operativo Especial de Seguridad, the Special Security Operations Group, known as GOES, which is the National Police's most highly trained elite squad apart from the Special Operations Group (GEO).

The GOES squad in Malaga is 30 years old this year, and we were allowed in to watch the day-to-day training which is "absolutely vital", we are told by the inspector who leads the group, a veteran officer with hundreds of operations behind him. He is in charge of 13 other officers.

Unlike the GEO, those in the GOES squad are trained to handle every situation that an assault group could face.

"The GEO has a lot of personnel and they specialise in different disciplines, but we have to know how to do everything," says the inspector, who is working with several of his men, preparing the weapons and protection they need to practise a raid on a property.

Two shots ring out, as a gun with fake ammunition opens fire on a cardboard door. On the other side of it are several rooms marked off with seamless paper for the manoeuvre. The GOES officers split into groups of two and check the rooms without hesitation. In less than a minute they have made sure that there are no threats and that the house is 'clean'.

The GOES, Malaga's elite police squad

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"We face very difficult situations every day and we have to take very fast decisions," explains the inspector. Their function as a group is very clear: they have to face up to the greatest risk. That is why the physical and technical tests to join any of the nine GOES squads in Spain are the most demanding (swimming, endurance, vertical jumping, agility, operational knowledge...). All the members of this elite squad also have to demonstrate that their operational and psychological capacities remain intact, on a regular basis.

In the case of kidnappings, they have to take charge of the situation until the GEO arrive from Guadalajara (in many cases they are directly responsible for freeing the hostages). The GOES group is also involved in neutralising and arresting members of terrorist groups, armed gangs and dangerous criminals .

The GOES in Malaga serves the four provinces of eastern Andalucía (Malaga, Jaén, Granada and Almeria). A large part of their work is centred on the Costa del Sol and, in fact, that is where some of their most recent and high profile interventions have taken place.

In April they arrested the person who fired the shot that killed a DJ at an illegal party in Marbella - he was an armed member of the criminal gang Ángeles del Infierno.

It was also officers from the GOES who last month arrested the suspected killer of a man whose body was found in a lorry in Torremolinos.

"We collaborate every day with the Judicial Police investigation groups," says the inspector, a symbiosis which makes particular sense in the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime.

The hardest case

The head of the squad doesn't hesitate when asked about the hardest situation he has had to handle. It was in March 2010, when a man tried to kidnap a bank manager in Fuengirola. When he failed, he barricaded himself inside his home, which was surrounded by the National Police during the hours of negotiation. "He didn't want to come out," remembers the inspector, who ordered his men to open the door. As soon as he saw a chance, the suspect - who turned out to be an off-duty National Police officer - opened fire against the police, who repelled the attack with their service weapons.

The subject died instantly, and when the police secured the area, they realised that things had been about to take a turn for the worst. "My ballistic shield had several impacts, and so did one of my colleague's helmets. One officer had been shot in the arm," says the inspector. "For us, an operation goes well if there is no damage, when you order someone to stop and they comply." Because in the worst situations, where the risk is greater, the GOES steps forward to mark and defend the blue line that separates order from chaos.