At 72, lawyer Binns asks to join cop school

Jimmy Binns (above) was dressed as a Philadelphia cop in 2008. DAVID MAIALETTI/ DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Jimmy Binns (above) was dressed as a Philadelphia cop in 2008. DAVID MAIALETTI/ DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Posted: August 03, 2012

LAWYER JIMMY BINNS loves cops.

He holds the title of honorary chief, detective or deputy sheriff in at least 10 departments from the city to the suburbs to the Jersey Shore.

He raises mountains of money to buy cops gear and is behind several efforts to recognize police and firefighters killed in the line of duty and to help their families. He even, controversially, sometimes rides around the region in a fake police uniform on a police-style Harley.

Soon, he could become a real cop.

Binns, 72, has applied to the Municipal Police Academy at Delaware County Community College, one of 21 such schools certified statewide to provide official basic police training. If he passes physical and psychological exams this fall, he'll start classes in January, four nights a week and a few Saturdays for the entire year.

He's confident he'll ace the exams.

"I can't study for the psychological test," he joked. And he's not sweating the physical, which requires prospective students to pass running, sit-up and weightlifting tests. For his age and gender, he must run 1.5 miles in 18.39 minutes, do 17 sit-ups in one minute and bench-press 63 percent of his weight.

"I'm going to be 73 the week after the [physical] exam, but I'm not worried at all. If you can pass the Philadelphia Police motorcycle school — I did that at age 68 — you can do anything," Binns said, referring to the city Highway Patrol‘s rigorous 80-hour training, which isn't normally open to the public. "You remember the ‘Rocky' movie? Well, there you go."

Binns said he doesn't plan to get a job as a cop. Rather, he's just indulging his passion for police, which was ignited 11 years ago when he was working as a criminal-defense lawyer.

"I didn't really know any police officers [then] except the ones I would cross-examine," Binns said.

"One day, I was sitting in this restaurant I owned that I hated — I got it [as payment] in a lawsuit. I used to have to go there every day, and I became friendly with a cop from the Sixth District [in Chinatown], Mike Walton, a sergeant, the very best. He'd come and drink cappuccinos with me," Binns said. "He pointed out the picture window and said: ‘Danny Faulkner's head was right there when I came on duty the night he was killed.' That overwhelmed me."

So Binns decided to put a plaque outside, commemorating the officer for whose death Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted. That led to the Hero Plaque program; after 11 years, the program has placed 255 plaques honoring police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

And from that, Binns' love of law enforcement ballooned.

"They're underpaid, underappreciated, and more should be done, for police and firefighters as well," he said.

Binns will be perhaps the Police Academy's most unusual student ever, said Bill Davis, academy director. Most students are decades younger; the oldest students typically are in their 40s, looking to make a career change, he said.

And most want to be cops.

"They have a mission in mind," Davis said, noting that most officers now working in Delaware County started at his academy. "This is a serious school, and 100 percent attendance is mandatory to pass."

That means Binns, who has degrees from La Salle and Villanova universities and who's licensed to practice law in 20 states plus Washington, D.C., has to complete all 752 hours of training.

Even if he knows some subject material, like basic law, so well that he could teach the class himself.

Contact Dana DiFilippo at 215-854-5934 or difilid@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo and read her blog, phillyconfidential.com.

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