More on overtime
1) Overtime for cops and firemen occurs as a result of one of two things in almost every case. Either they're short staffed or they need additional staffing for an increase in operational tempo. As far as staffing goes they are under fairly tight regulations and standards that dictate how many officers/firefighters MUST be on duty at all times. So overtime is NOT a result of someone simply asking for it, making up some additional duty to be performed, or some other bogus reason.
2) Overtime is often mandated. The officers/firefighters do not have a choice to work it. In some cases that means they don't go home for up to and possibly longer than 72 hours.
3) Overtime is governed by FLSA standards (Fair Labor Standard Act of 1920-something). They get time and a half, nothing more. No triple time. Nothing more than the minimum required by law.
4) Often personnel who make a lot of money on overtime do so by almost ruining their personal lives. Either way they get paid for the service they provide according to the minimum statuatory standards.
5) Overtime for emergencies is a given with both professions. Anyone who signs up for the job knows full well that they have to be willing to give up their life in every respect to be committed to the job. That means anywhere from that 72 hour overtime shift(s) to being out on a strike team assignment for weeks, sometimes months at a time. It can also mean giving up their personal safety and sometimes death (typcially 100 per year, on the job).
6) Their families must accept the above as well. That's a lot of missed soccer games, graduations, etc. compared to most other professions. It simply comes with the territory.
7) I'm sure you already know that companies view overtime as being cheaper than hiring new personnel. This is the new wave of many fire departments accross the country as well. Fewer new pensions, fewer expensive hiring practices, fewer expensive initial training, etc. But keep in mind that the private sector can't keep you at work for 72 hours, weeks at a time. They can't insist you stay at work during an earthquake so that you can't return to you family.
8) Any beef at all about overtime should be from the perspective that managers are overworking their people and presenting a threat to public safety by doing so. Because the fiscal cost is much cheaper for the taxpayer, no matter how much Firefighter Doe is making on his check. But it can be more expensive is he's burned out aiming weapons at people in bars. That's where things have to be put in check.
Just thought you ought to know more before you go on thinking these guys are just getting rich and that's all there is to it. Besides, how many millionaire firefighters and cops do you know?