WHEN DELAWARE County Community College's Municipal Police Academy was planning this year's graduation ceremony, it had to find a larger venue.

The reason? The expected turnout for Jimmy Binns, a city lawyer with a reputation for working closely with the boys in blue. This time, Binns wasn't hosting the festivities: He was participating.

Last night, Binns, the academy's oldest cadet, became the academy's oldest graduate.

"This is a culmination of a great year," Binns, 74, said outside Ridley High School's auditorium in Folsom, filled to capacity with supporters both in and out of uniform.

So why did Binns, a civilian best-known for honoring officers killed in the line of duty through the hero-plaque program and drawing the occasional controversy by donning a fake police uniform in public, want to earn an official uniform of his own?

"It occurred to me that maybe the best way to pay respects to these fallen officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice was to emulate them," Binns said.

"The only thing that had me worried was [physical training] - that's always a challenge when you're 74, brother."

But the lawyer, who keeps a strict exercise regimen to stay in shape, showed no signs of worry last night, as he led his 82 classmates, all young enough to be his grandchildren, onstage to receive their diplomas from academy director William Davis.

"When he first came in a year ago, I never thought he would make it, that it would work," Davis said. "Every instructor said he was a pleasure to teach, and these kids with him? They loved him."

They even chipped in to buy Binns - whom they elected the class lieutenant - a medal depicting St. Michael, the patron saint of law enforcement.

"The last oldest guy we had in my 23 years here was 50," Davis said. "Just goes to show you how hard he worked at this."

Another sign of Binns' hard work? His two graduation-day accolades: An academic-achievement award honoring his 98.4 percent GPA (his class' highest) and an "overall achievement award" from the Delaware County Police Chiefs Association.

But he's not resting on these laurels. He hints that he already has offers lined up for a law-enforcement position.

"I haven't settled yet, but I know I will be out there keeping the community safe," he said. "I'm fully prepared for whatever comes next."