Three escorts and two "runway models" are accusing Salt Lake police of harassing and belittling them and using heavy-handed tactics in a campaign to shut down their businesses.

The accusations were leveled Wednesday against Salt Lake City and 13 of its police officers in a civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop the city from violating their rights and to award them each $1.5 million in damages.According to the lawsuit, escorts Jennifer Wintle, Mindy Butler and Laura Bugni and models Jamie Brause and Jamie Chesnut were "terrorized" by police during late 1997 and much of this year.

Their lawyer is Orem attorney W. Andrew McCullough, who has been representing LeMar's nightclub in Provo in its battle - abandoned this week - to continue offering semi-nude entertainment.

The federal lawsuit says Wintle, Butler and Bugni are licensed to provide services as personal escorts under Salt Lake City's sexually oriented business ordinance.

Wintle was charged with two violations of the ordinance in January. The following month, she was with a client at Motel 6 in downtown Salt Lake City when officer Michael S. Hatch and other officers "kicked in the door," the suit said.

Wintle said the officers didn't identify themselves as police, and she, fearing for her safety, tried to lock herself in the bathroom. The officers forced their way in and handcuffed her, she said.

"During the entire time plaintiff Wintle was in custody, defendant Hatch and others belittled her, called her names, made fun of her and generally indicated that they were having a `blast' terrorizing her," the suit said. It added that she was "paraded" around the police department "as if she were some sort of prize."

Butler said she agreed to be interviewed by police at the department headquarters under threat of arrest. She said she took her young daughter along because she couldn't find a babysitter.

"Defendant Hatch opened the interview with a lecture about rapes and other serious problems associated with plaintiff Butler's business," the suit said. Then, "in front of Butler's young child," officers questioned Butler about specific sex acts and accused her of lying, the suit said.

"During the entire interview, defendant Hatch attempted to degrade, demoralize and terrify Butler in an attempt to get her to tell them what he wanted to hear," the suit said.

Brause and Chesnut said they were working as models or dancers at the Runway Restaurant when officers Hatch, Bryan A. Bailey and Todd Mitchell entered the business and accused them of violating the sexually oriented business ordinance. They were then taken to the police station, where they were questioned for five hours.

"Defendants made additional accusatory statements about these plaintiffs, including that they were on drugs and generally fostered an atmosphere of terror designed to force cooperation with their investigation of others," the suit said.

By holding the two women for five hours "without a warning against self-incrimination," the police violated their constitutional rights, the suit said.

According to the suit, businesses providing personal services as escorts, models and dancers are protected by the First Amendment. The police actions were designed to "censor" the women in those businesses and deprive them of due process of law, the suit said.