Regina Rush-Kittle

Regina Rush-Kittle
"Don't settle for what people expect you to be. Be what you expect to be. Be what you want to be."
- Regina Rush-Kittle

Induction Category:
Politics, Government & Law

Born: 1961

Inducted: 2017

Regina Rush-Kittle started her law enforcement career in 1983 with the Connecticut Department of Corrections.  By 2015, she had trail-blazed through her career to become the first African-American woman to become a Connecticut State Police Sergeant, Lieutenant, Major, and the commander of a barracks.

Born on January 2, 1961, in Baltimore, Maryland, Regina was the oldest in a family of three siblings. In 1968 her family moved to Middletown, Connecticut.

After graduating from Middletown High School in 1979, Rush attended UCONN and graduated in 1983 with a degree in Political Science, making the Dean’s list several semesters. It was during her Junior year at UCONN that Rush-Kittle joined the US Marine Corps Reserves, attending basic training during the summer between her Junior and Senior years.  She served in the Marine Reserves for three years.

After graduating in 1983, she intended to go to law school. Lacking the funds to begin those studies, she took a job as a corrections officer at the Niantic women’s prison. There she realized an attraction to law enforcement. She joined the Middletown Police Department as their first black female patrol officer in 1985.

Concurrently, she transferred her military career to the US Army Reserves. With corrections and policing now in her career path, she attempted to join the Military Police, but soon found out that she was not qualified … by one inch of height.

Undeterred, she became a drill sergeant and later rose to the ranks of Command Sergeant Major – the highest regular enlisted rank in the Reserves.  

In August of 1996, Rush was promoted to the rank of State Police Sergeant, the first African-American female to attain that rank.  While a Sergeant, she served as a patrol supervisor at Troop W, Troop F and Troop K. She was also assigned as an investigator in the Internal Affairs Unit. 

While busy balancing her dual career, Rush completed her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration in just 20 months, graduating from Western New England College with a 4.0 GPA in 1997.  That same year, she married her husband, William Kittle. William is a Connecticut State Police Master Sergeant and retired Connecticut Army National Guard First Sergeant. He had just started his first day of training with the CT State Police the morning of their wedding.

In February of 2003, while assigned as patrol supervisor at Troop K, Rush-Kittle was mobilized as an Army Reservist for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was deployed as a member of the United States Army Reserve for over a year and returned to Troop K in March of 2004, where she was assigned as the Acting Executive Officer.

In July of 2004, after scoring number one on both the Lieutenants and Master Sergeants promotional examinations, Rush-Kittle was promoted to the rank of State Police Lieutenant, the first African-American female in the department’s one hundred year history to attain that rank. 

Her State Police career was interrupted again in 2009 to prepare and subsequently serve as the Command Sergeant Major of the 321st Military Intelligence Battalion of Texas, completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  During this deployment, she was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

Following her return to the Connecticut State Police, Rush-Kittle attended the 244th Session of the FBI National Academy, in Quantico, VA.  After graduation from the FBINA, she was assigned as the first female Commandant of the Connecticut State Police Training Academy. In December 2011, Rush-Kittle was promoted to the rank of State Police Major, again being the first African-American female to attain this rank. 

In August 2015, Rush-Kittle concluded 30 years of service to the state of Connecticut and joined the Millbury, MA Police Department. 

In March of 2012, Rush-Kittle concluded her military service, retiring after serving in both the U.S Marine Corps and U.S Army Reserves. Rush-Kittle resigned from law enforcement in February 2017.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice

Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”

A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.

Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.

Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.

A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.

Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent.  Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.

The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.