CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's no secret. Law enforcement officers are under more scrutiny than ever. Stories of police brutality and misconduct make headlines almost daily across the country.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officers Eric Marcus and Chad Webster know that.
"It's tough. If you take any job - no matter what it is - and you are constantly seeing negative things about it, you can't help but be affected by it," Webster said.
Both he and Marcus are community coordinators in the University City Division. They don't sugarcoat things when talking about how they're sometimes treated, and they don't try to pretend the red carpet is rolled out for them every time they drive through a neighborhood.
But they are trying to rewrite the narrative.
"Unfortunately perception is reality, and we're trying to show people a different side of what police are," Webster said.
They're doing so with a new effort called "Waves of Change." It's a simple concept that began with the most common of gestures.
"We were out patrolling one day. Eric waved at somebody and he waved back and he said, 'Boy, we could have just changed what he thought about police,'" Webster said.
If someone waves back, officers stop and try to start a conversation. We were with them as they stopped to talk to a man who was playing football with his kids.
"You waved. We actually went by a couple people who didn't wave. So we're trying to show it's OK to wave at police, we're here to be friends," Marcus told the man.
For nearly a half hour, Marcus and Webster played with the neighbor's children and gave them a tour around their police cruiser. The children were ecstatic.
"Waving can improve on our perception of police officers and what kids' perception is. If they see us, interacting with the police and let me know that we're all friends, we can come together somehow," the father said.
The pair of officers has planted the seed with other officers across the University City Division and CMPD as a whole. They've even enlisted the help of Rob Rogers, a local Chik-Fil-A owner who comes along to hand out coupons.
"Their job is just not to protect but to serve, and I see them with a heart to serve every day," Rogers said. "And that's what I'm drawn to."
At the end of each visit, they ask to snap a picture and up on social media it goes. They hope to spread a new story that can replace the old.
"You can turn on the television and sometimes see a particular perception, but what I see out here is a message that can be communicated across the nation," Rogers said.
To follow "Waves of Change" on Facebook, click here.