‘You Said What?’ Let’s Cut the Jargon Already

Improve you public safety initiatives’ chances of success by eliminating niche-specific lingo and communicating clearly with others who are on campus and in your surrounding community.

Those of you who are in law enforcement  might recall a few years back when there was a push to eliminate the use of codes in radio communications, particularly when multiple jurisdictions were responding to large-scale disasters. Plain English was adopted so all first responders involved could understand the orders being given and what was happening at the scene of an incident.

This approach could also be applied to our everyday communications with other stakeholders, both internal and external. I’m making this suggestion after years of dealing with campus security and traditional law enforcement, healthcare and education administrators, emergency managers, mental health experts, government officials, clinicians, lawyers, business executives, tech geeks, politicians, marketing reps and more.

I’m always amazed at the lingo used by each of these communities. Law enforcement and security types regularly refer to things like “force multipliers,” while individuals in the mental health field throw around the term “evidence-based” all the time. Business folk like to talk about “return on investment,” while  IT people are fond of saying things like “value add” and “silos.” And don’t even get me started on the gobbledygook used by academia, physicians, the government and regulatory agencies.

While I’m certain these catch phrases are meaningful to some of the individuals entrenched in their particular niches, using jargon makes it extremely difficult for others who are not familiar with that specific field to understand what is being communicated. I bring this up now because at no time in our history has it been more important for all of the disparate sectors I’ve listed above to effectively collaborate.

This is particularly true if you are looking for funding. If your campus is applying for grants, demonstrating you are collaborating with other organizations is critical. Campuses and agencies that don’t take this approach most likely won’t get the money they need to pay for their projects, programs and people.

Related Article: When Responding to Grant RFPs, Give Them What They Want

For example, the Safe Schools/Healthy Students State Program (SS/HS) encourages mental health agencies to work closely with education and law enforcement agencies. These are three distinct cultures that speak very different languages, despite the fact that they all speak English. Fortunately, at least according to the Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),  initiatives like SS/HS were previously piloted on a smaller scale and have experienced success.  I suspect one of the reasons why they worked well was because the organizations involved were able to communicate properly.

Even if your campus isn’t applying for any government or private grants, it just makes sense for you to partner with other internal and external organizations so that you will use your resources wisely.

For years, Campus Safety and the experts we feature have recommended hospital, school and university security executives get involved in things like new construction planning. To be successful in dealing with the architects, general contractors and other on-campus stakeholders involved, however, you must be able to communicate with them effectively. That means not using jargon, no matter how comfortable you may be with it or how cool it sounds.

I implore all of you who want to improve safety and security at your university, hospital or school to take a good, hard look at how you communicate. I also encourage you to work with other stakeholders on campus and in your surrounding communities so that you understand their communication styles and lingo. Hopefully they will work just as hard to understand yours.

When this happens, you and your community will be in a much better position to work as a team to take advantage of the internal and external resources available.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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