Emily McKinley keeps her cell phone close.
Calls come at anytime, night or day, summoning her to fields or darkened alleys — the grim scenes of murder and death, where bodies await and casework begins.
She leads the Louisville Metro Police Department’s homicide unit. The job demands McKinley to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And in recent months, it’s been a busy job.
“Around the clock, nonstop,” she said.
This year, Louisville police have responded to 66 homicides, McKinley said. The deadly count is on pace to surpass last year’s record high. And in addition to suicides and overdoses and the some 200 shootings — the surge of violent crime is top of mind for many city officials, community leaders, residents and police.
On Thursday, McKinley joined a crowd of nearly 400 people on the sixth floor of the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville to hear Mayor Greg Fischer detail his plan to address violent crime.
Many in the crowd were city employees, some were elected officials and others were a who’s who, of sorts, of social services and nonprofits from across the city.
Fischer made a plea for attendees to take part in mentoring programs for younger residents or find other ways to get involved with programs aimed at preventing and reducing violence and crime.
“We must be accountable as individuals, parents, families, and as a city,” he said. “Anything is possible for our city when we come together.”
His near 40-minute speech included video clips of Muhammad Ali and former Louisville Mayor Charles Farnsley. Fischer also presented historical homicide statistics and a map showing every murder of 2016.
The mayor also recounted his own experience on Thanksgiving Day last year when shooting erupted at Shawnee Park during an annual football tournament, leaving two dead.
He called the killing a “punch in the gut” and said while it was the closest he’d ever been to a homicide, it’s “a prospect – and for some a memory – they live with every day.”
McKinley knows this to be true.
She’s been working homicides in Louisville for six years and lead the department’s 26-member homicide unit since October 2016.
“Each case is a person,” she said.
And though solving cases oftentimes starts at the murder scene, McKinley stressed that addressing the broader issue of violent crime happens elsewhere.
She said events like Thursday’s gathering are welcome — they embolden her work and highlight the efforts and interest directed towards crime reduction.
“It’s a behind the scenes solution,” McKinley said. “All these people here are a piece to that puzzle.”