GEO agents, in an act held at the group’s headquarters, in Guadalajara, in March 2022.KIKE PARA
Hundreds of candidates and only a handful of those elected. The last process initiated by the Ministry of the Interior to fill vacancies in the Special Operations Group (GEO), the elite unit of the National Police that carries out the most risky operations such as anti-terrorist assaults or the release of hostages, concluded on September 1. after covering only 12 of the 17 positions offered despite the fact that 311 agents took the tests (18 candidates per position), as recorded in internal documents to which EL PAÍS has had access.
Sources from the General Directorate of Police admit that, due to the requirement of evidence, “usually” it is not possible to fill the positions that are periodically offered in order to maintain around one hundred operational personnel that the unit has. In the previous call, which concluded in 2021, of the 13 positions offered, one was left unfilled. After the 2016 course, in which 37 new geos were sought, 25 places were vacant. The GEO is the only police unit in which there are still no women. In this last contest, four participated and were eliminated in the physical tests, which are the same as for men.
Currently, the GEO ―created at the end of the 1970s― has a catalog of 207 positions, of which 110 are known as “operational personnel”, police officers at the basic and sub-inspection levels that make up the groups that execute the operations. The dozen positions now filled and the five that have remained vacant correspond precisely to this group. Sub-inspector Francisco Javier Torronteras belonged to this unit, who died on April 3, 2004 during the assault on the apartment in Leganés (Madrid) where seven members of the jihadist cell that committed the 11-M attacks were hiding. The Geos also participated, at the beginning of 2021, in the evacuation of both Spanish diplomatic personnel and Afghan collaborators and their families from Kabul after the Taliban returned to power. In February 2022, agents from this unit led the operation to bring Spaniards residing in Ukraine to safety after the start of the Russian invasion.
The last selection process began in 2022 with the announcement of a specific merit contest to which any agent of both scales who was not suspended from duty and had been in their last destination for more than two years could apply. In addition, they were required to have a driving license and a minimum height of 1.60 for women and 1.65 for men. The GEO is one of the only three police units that still ask for this physical requirement, after Interior eliminated it last year to facilitate access for women. As an incentive, the position has a specific supplement of 8,594 euros per year. “When you take the tests, you don’t do it for the money, it’s more of a personal and professional challenge,” says a former GEO member, who asked to remain anonymous.
This last call was a success as 311 candidates attended, compared to the 240 who did so in the previous one. All of them were subjected to three successive eliminatory exams. The first, to measure the physical aptitudes of the candidates, included four tests: running eight kilometers in less than 38 minutes, swimming 50 meters in less than 40 seconds, executing a vertical jump of a minimum of 53 centimeters and perform at least 12 pull-ups (lift the body while hanging from a bar and overcome it with the chin). Unlike previous calls, this time Interior eliminated a speed-agility circuit that the candidates had to overcome in no more than 11.2 seconds.
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Not reaching any of the minimum marks or a minimum score even if the test was passed meant exclusion from the process, which is what happened to the only four women candidates. Those who did succeed were subjected to a second qualifying exam, a psychotechnical test with which it is intended to determine if they have the skills required by this police specialty. The 184 who obtained the highest grade between this exercise and the physical tests were subjected to the third test, a personal interview, to “determine the suitability or otherwise of the candidate for the performance of the functions of the job”, according to the bases. competition.
However, passing the three tests did not guarantee a place in the specialization course, since, due to logistical limitations, only the 92 agents with the best scores were chosen to take it. The course ―whose hardness is reflected in the documentary series GEO: Beyond the Limit, released by Amazon Prime in October 2021― lasted seven months in which the agents were subjected to highly demanding physical and mental exercises that They included strenuous physical exercises, alterations in the sleep cycle, fasting or night baths in the cold waters of the Tagus River. “These are days that are not forgotten. Whether or not you manage to become a geo, they mark you,” says the former member of the unit who recognizes the “special demand” of the tests.
At the end of the period, 80 agents had fallen by the wayside – some, a few days after starting the course – and only 12 achieved the coveted red beret that distinguishes the uniform of those who make up the elite unit. All of them have committed to remaining in the GEO operational group for three years, after which time they must pass tests again that will allow them to remain for another two years. And so on. “Belonging to the GEO creates a brotherhood among its members forever,” emphasizes the former member of the unit, who belonged to it for seven years.
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